Waste, Part III

Like all good movie franchises, you know when the first film ends with an exciting yet frustrating cliff hanger, they’re just leaving you begging for more in the second part, and inevitably are also paving the way with part three.  Well such is my life and my battle with ‘stuff’. Exactly two years ago this month I got to the stage I was so weighed down by all the possessions that were filling my flat that I had a huge clear out, using a daily challenge over the month of March to get rid of a few hundred belongings.  Fast forward just over six months after that and I still felt as though I had too much stuff in the flat.  Over the last couple of years since then, I’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining my reduced  possessions, which means that I’ve not added too much more to the load, but of course it also means i’ve not thinned all my possessions down all that much.

In March 2016, I had purposefully left myself with quite a few items that I didn’t use all that much, but I was loath to get rid of because of the money I’d spent on these things in the first place.  Beautiful leather boots that have heels I can barely walk in, lots of bags & handbags that were not hugely expensive, but enough that I didn’t want to just charity-shop the lot, knowing they’d be on sale for only a couple of quid.  The other side of this is that I couldn’t be arsed with the thought of listing everything for sale on eBay or some such place, with all the faff that these platforms involve.  However, the time has come to start sorting this shit out.  I want to clear out a lot more stuff and just get to the point I only have what I actually use.  I’ll charity shop some more stuff, but I’ll also list a few things I want to try to sell on local selling pages (I’m not an eBay fan), and if I can’t flog them then i’ll charity shop them.

So rather than do the same challenge that I undertook previously (ditching 1 item on the 1st of the month, 2 on the 2nd and so on), I’m planning to flout convention and deal with specific areas / collections of ‘things’ around the flat.  Easter is coming up, and while I’m fairly busy on the Friday, I have another 3 days with no plans, so it’s the perfect opportunity.  I’m not sure I’ll get everything done that I want to, but i’m going to have a good go.  SO, that brings me to where I want to be.  I have a vision in my head of what I want my flat to be like, so to help keep me accountable, here’s the plan of what I want.

Living Room

  • Fewer books!  I know, it pains me to type it.  And NO, I’m not getting a bloody Kindle, gah!
  • Ideally I want to get rid of the narrow chest of drawers I have and replace it with a small table with a drawer.  I have some stuff I need to keep (paperwork etc.) and I need somewhere to keep it, but I reckon I can ditch the drawers.
  • I have a futon that rarely gets used as such, and not often as a chair either….I can’t decide whether to get rid of it, but I might.
  • No more magazine rack-type things stuffed with too much paper, old magazines etc.
  • Nothing on the floor.  That is, everything needs a home.

Spare Bedroom

  • I have a clothes rail I want to get rid of, so the clothes/shoes/bags etc. on it need to go
  • I have another book shelf which is full, and ideally I’d like that to go too, so I can get a small table for a lamp/pictures.

Bedroom/En suite

  • The chest of drawers with the bulk of my clothes is full to the brim, so I need to clear a lot of space
  • I have a clothes rail in this room too, and I need to clear some space for the clothes I don’t want to chuck out from the other rail in the spare room
  • I want to minimise all the toiletries in the en suite to leave it really clear and with only the few items I use each day on show.  I don’t want to chuck stuff out needlessly, but there are some things i’m never going to use, so they need to go.  Also I need to clear some room for my soap addiction.  The soap stays.
  • I have a small bedside cabinet and a bag of stuff (mainly pictures) next to it gathering lots of dust; they need to be cleared out.  Again I want nothing on the floor that doesn’t have a home.

Hall Cupboard

  • I’m lucky to have a lot of storage space in the flat (most modern places have zero space like this).  So in here I keep stuff I want to use but is likely to be seasonal, for example, camping gear, luggage etc.  I want to get this to the point I can open it, reach in and get what I need without having to move a dozen other things out the way first.
  • I also have a small table in the hall which is loaded with stuff and is untidy and needs to be sorted.

Kitchen

  • I have a lot of baking stuff I don’t use, too many glasses and it feels a bit cluttered.  So I can rationalise a lot of the shit in there.

Fuck me, having typed all that out I’ve realised how much shit I still have and need to get rid of!!  Arggggggggg!

Wish me luck.  If I can’t get it all done, I can at least make a good start this weekend.  I shall report back in due course.

Oh and if anyone local to me thinks they might want anything I’m trying to get rid of, let me know, hehehe.

 

The 5 P(ea)s

Last week I spent a brilliant week in Lanzarote with some of my Pirate pals.  In what is becoming an annual tradition, we head to the Canaries for some winter sun, and for a triathlon training week.  Well, sort of.  Mostly it’s a cocktail drinking week with training thrown in.  Last February I smashed the cocktail bit of the trip, and did the sum total of zero training.  This year I kept up my drinking credentials (random stagger-induced bruises attest to this), but also managed a little bit of training in the form of three short runs and an even shorter swim.  The lack of swim training resulted from what can only be described as a ‘fucking baltic pool’.  I’d promised myself I’d do a proper swim before flying back late Saturday, but I woke up with the fear, and couldn’t face making myself that cold on purpose.  I do of course realise that Lanza is surrounded by a rather vast ocean, perfect for failing about in, but I couldn’t be assed with the faffage of wrestling with a tiny towel on the beach and getting sand everywhere.

Anyway, it was a wonderful holiday with my fabulous friends, and a much-needed break away to relax & reflect.  I really enjoyed the three runs we did; it reminded me how much fun it is running with other people.  This year I’ve promised myself a return to triathlon after a rather lengthy hiatus.  I do love supporting all my pals in their tri adventures, and i’ve happily been doing that for years, but it’s time to actually do something for myself this year.  The Cotswold Classic on the 5th of August is my A race if you like, so everything now is geared towards that race.  I’d already decided to use a training plan from beginnertriathlete.com and I’d printed it off all ready to start on the 19th March.  I’d also worked back a few weeks to figure out how much training to do in the 6 weeks or so leading up to the start of the plan, and had calculated the hours to aim for each week in preparation.  However, some good chats on holiday has meant I’m changing my plan slightly.  For the next couple of weeks my aim is to do 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs per week.  I’ll up that to 3 each per week after that, and essentially follow the first couple of weeks of the programme in terms of structure/sessions, albeit initially i’ll reduce the time/distance for the sessions, building up each week until the start of the plan.

The next couple of weeks are going to be really busy – I’ve a lot going on that isn’t training related, so it’ll take some organisation to fit it all in, but that’s okay.  Today was spent unpacking and putting all my holiday washing on, then food shopping for the week (though i’ve bought enough to last until March I think; the freezer is creaking).  I’ve cooked a chicken, made some soup and decided to make some breakfast muffins so i’ve got lots of food ready for the week ahead (sauté some bacon lardons, finely diced peppers and chopped kale in butter, stick in a muffin case, pour over whisked eggs and bake in the oven for 25 mins.  So good!).  My bag is packed ready for a swim straight after work before I’m out for the evening.  As they say, proper planning prevents (piss) poor performance, so I thought I’d best get my Ps (or peas) in a row.  I’ve also been adding all the training sessions to Training Peaks, which i’m going to use to record & track progress as I go.  It’s a bit of a faff, but you can copy & paste sessions and being able to turn them green as you tick them off is always satisfying and motivational.

So the plan is to use this blog a bit more to record my training week by week, to help me see the bigger picture and keep more of a diarised record of how it’s all going.  I’ll be back soon to report on my successes!

Happy Sunday folks 🙂

x

Nicko's Eulogy

Nicko

 

Although we first met through running, I mainly knew Nicko as one of the Pirates, a lot of whom are here today in our pirate colours, yellow and black,  in memory of our dear friend.  It’s an unusual club – you don’t pay to join, there’s no membership card.  We all have nicknames – if you’re lucky you get to pick your own, if you’re stupid you’ll let the others decide.  It’s fair to say we’re an eclectic bunch, spread throughout the UK and indeed the world; all genders, ages and abilities are accounted for.  Like any large group, sometimes we bicker, occasionally we fall out, and there’s even the odd bit of clothes swapping at times, but when the chips are down we’ll always be there for one another.  What we are really good at is supporting each other, through thick and thin.  So if I had to sum up the pirates in one world, it would be this: family.  And Nicko was at the very heart of our family.  

 

I asked the pirates to share their memories of Nicko, but knowing his penchant for being a cheeky bugger and an incorrigible perv, and his ability to call a spade a spade in no uncertain terms, I was a bit nervous about what people would say.  But actually, what I received wasn’t outrageous stories of all the daft things he’s done over the years, instead, I learned of all the times he passed on his knowledge and experience to those of us who were just starting out, and needed some help.  Of the times he cycled or ran with people during races, giving them the support they needed to keep going.  Or when he ran back the last three miles of a half ironman to help run someone in to the finish.  Or the time at Outlaw when he got up out of his tent in the middle of the night during a storm to help Seren with a stuck tent-zip, as she struggled to close it to keep out the rain.  The evening took an even more exciting turn, however, as it turns out Nicko sleeps naked, so she said that she had to watch where she was shining her torch.  I think we all know where that torch was pointing….

 

Even when Nicko was struggling with his own life & illness, he would put others first, and would be ready with some words of encouragement, a hug and a kiss to send people on their way.

 

His generosity wasn’t limited to supporting at races either.  He always had a special place in his heart for our favourite pirate family, the Silent Assassins, Q, Jo and Jordy.  He once asked them if they had an old bike they no longer wanted for a project of his, and when they sent him Jo’s old bike, he cleaned it up, sold it on and sent them back the money so Jordy could use it for his holiday to Florida.  Another time he sent them tickets to the WWE Wrestling that was coming to Manchester, because he knew just how much Jordy loved wrestling.

 

He even tried to help me recently.  We were chatting on the phone, arranging a visit and he mistakenly thought I’d said that my car wasn’t working and I needed a new one.  Nicko’s immediate response was to try and help, so he said I could just take Jackie’s car,  but there was no bloody way I was getting my hands on his precious Merc.  Thankfully for Jackie, my car was okay.

 

I’m lucky to have a lot of personal memories of the times we’ve spent together over the last 9 years, not least the last time I saw Nicko when I spent a really lovely day with him & Jackie in September.  There’s so much I could share, but I’ll finish with my resounding memory of Nicko, from the Outlaw triathlon this year. 

 

The pirates have always shown a strong presence at the Outlaw which is held in Nottingham in late July.  This year was especially poignant, as Nicko was determined to race with his friends Stanners and Dave, in the team Nicko’s Nobblers.  One of the best things about the pirates is our ability not to take ourselves too seriously, and Nicko embraced that ethos by showing up not only in pirate kit, but a giant inflatable unicorn rubber ring, a flowery swim cap & a snorkel.  He strutted along the side of the lake, a huge smile on his face, wondering aloud why so many triathletes take themselves so seriously.  One of my favourite photos is taken from a distance, showing a sea of rubber-clad swimmers then there’s Nicko, bobbing around the water in a giant unicorn.  I know a few of us were worried he might not even make it out the water in one piece, but as we all know Nicko was a stubborn bugger, but more importantly, he didn’t want to let his team down.  He swam 3.8k that day, despite the pain and fatigue, and made it across the line in time.  Watching Nicko, Stanners and Dave cross that finish line is a memory I’ll cherish forever.  It was such a wonderful moment, even Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman World Champion heard of Nicko’s exploits and wrote the following inscription for him in her book:

 

“Nick, I just wanted to congratulate you on all the charity work you’ve done over the years.  You’ve achieved some fantastic times in your own marathons & triathlons, but mostly congratulations for being the first unicorn to cross the finish line at Outlaw.  Well done!”

 

The organisers of Outlaw also know how important Nicko was to the pirates and I’m happy to say that they’ve offered the pirates a free place to raffle off in his honour, so we’re going to do that for St Wilfred’s Hospice. The owner of the Cotswold 113 middle distance race had also been holding a place for Nicko, so Graham has offered this place to the pirates to auction off too.

 

Our pirate family is in mourning today, and will be for some time.  I was wondering how on earth I could even begin to sum up just what Nicko means to me, to all of us, and I realised that actually I can’t, so I’m going to steal some words from Superman himself, Christopher Reeve who said:

 

“A hero

is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles

 

I think you’ll all agree this sums up our Nicko, and it’s how I’d like to remember him. 

 

Rest in peace my friend.

Nicko


Letting Go

Today we said goodbye to our lovely friend Nicko.  I didn’t realise just how anxious I was about this day until it arrived.  Speaking on behalf of my friends to talk about how much Nicko meant to me/us was scary, but I hope people feel I captured the essence of what our friendship with Nicko was about.  Today was definitely a celebration of a life lived, and I was so honoured to have been able to be a part of that.  Meeting friends I’ve not seen for a while was also great if a little bittersweet, but times like this just serve to remind me how important these friends are to my life, and how much I cherish them.  Life always gets in the way, and though we might not meet as often as I’d like, I’m so glad to know they are there.

In a way though I still can’t really believe Nicko has gone, and his loss will be keenly felt for some time to come.  Living a good life in his honour, especially where sport is concerned is important to me, and I look forward to the Cotswold Classic triathlon next August with Nicko in mind.  I know thinking about his grit & determination in the face of his cancer diagnosis will help spur me on when I’m feeling too tired or <insert excuse here>; if he can do it, i’ve got no bloody excuse.  Along with a friend, the plan is to complete the tri and raise money for St Wilfred’s Hospice at the same time.  They looked after our friend so well it will be nice to be able to repay even just a little bit of their kindness.

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Today also felt like a new start for other reasons.  I’ve been preoccupied about thoughts of letting go, and figuring out how you know whether something really is in the past or not.  I think today confirmed to me that some things that were once important to me have now ceased to mean so much, now that I can understand their true worth.  Or actually maybe it’s more that I recognise my own worth, and realise I don’t need anyone else to validate that for me; I know I’ve made that mistake in the past.  I can see with more clarity that those things that are not what I thought they were can be left in the past where they belong.  I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders in some respect, as if i’ve shed an unnecessary skin, and can move on in the right direction without feeling as though I’m being dragged back by the past.

It’s time to keep moving on with life, to keep plugging away at my goals as I have been this last year or so.  I now know I can get there by myself, but it’ll definitely be easier with help from the people I want to be a part of the adventure, from those I’m lucky enough to call my true friends.  Here’s to the future.

Change

Autumn Road Fallen Leaves Nature Trees Desktop Images

I’ve not written for a while; it’s been a stressful few weeks if I’m honest.  A dear friend lost his fight against the bastard that is cancer, but this isn’t really the place to talk about that, well not right now at least.  Too much to say, but not enough words at the moment.

Life otherwise has been more stressful that it’s felt for a long time, both through the sheer number of things all happening at once, and the level of responsibility that has come alongside.  Work is good but busy, and I’ve been feeling the weight of responsibility of doing a good job to ensure a project goes in on time.  I’ve been enjoying the course I’m currently studying, but completing a group project with 3 others when we were on 4 time zones was somewhat of a challenge.  There are some other things i’m involved in which I love being a part of, but again i’m now feeling that extra weight of responsibility on my shoulders.  I’m not usually someone who succumbs to stress, but i’ve felt it a lot the last few weeks.  But still, it isn’t that it’s all negative.  In fact other than losing Nicko, everything else has gone really well, so it has been an odd mixture of sadness, success and stress.  The biggest impact is just a lack of decent sleep for a few weeks, I find my mind has been racing all the time and especially at night.

That’s all slowly calming down a bit, and I’d say life is regaining some semblance of normality.  At the same time though, things feel different somehow.  Not in a bad way at all, actually it feels positive, as if a big change is on the horizon.  I’m not sure if anyone else ever feels this, but every few years or so, I get fairly constant feelings of deja vu for a few weeks, and also I get these kind of premonitions, not about anything big, just little things.  It’s so strange I can’t really describe it, but it kind of feels like some aspects of life are being cleaved off, leaving the way for new growth.  I guess it’s quite ironic it feels like this during Autumn, the very season that teaches us that letting go is the only way to move forward.  I’ve had this a few times before, usually it signals change, and a chance to just keep moving forward, but with less baggage than before, and a fresher focus.  In many ways nothing has changed on the surface, but internally it feels like it’s time for a fresh start.  Maybe it’s because my birthday is coming up too, albeit not a significant one.

I’ve been refocusing on debt repayment and eating better again, even if the eating has been a bit up and down.  The stress of the past few weeks would normally have sent me off the rails food wise, but actually it wasn’t too bad.  I think I’ve finally learned it doesn’t help.  I feel better for all the weight i’ve lost, but determined to keep going with that and get rid of the rest of the excess.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the past, partly with nostalgia, but also with a little curiosity.  One thing i’ve been thinking about: when does something become ‘in the past’? Now obviously I know the dinner I ate earlier was in the past, but why is it somethings that happen in life we think of a lot, and form part of our daily lives, but others are somehow consigned to this area of our lives that is distinctively in the past, as if it was a lifetime ago?  None of this probably makes sense; this is definitely just a rambling post!  Anyway, it feels as though everything is now being consigned to ‘in the past’, as if a clearer future lies ahead.

If you’ve got this far, well done.  Maybe you can figure out what the hell I’m trying to say, as i’m not sure I know, haha!  Maybe I can just sum it up by saying life is busy (which I prefer), and although sometimes it can be cruel and sad, I find there are always happy memories to look back on, and if you’re open to it, a brighter future to look forward to.

Just to say….

….I’ve signed up for a triathlon next August 😱

It’s time to get on the other side of supporting barrier and claim some glory for myself. I’m going to race (ha!) the Cotswold Classic on the 5th of August. For those unfamiliar, this is essentially a middle-distance triathlon (half-Ironman if you will) comprising a 1.8 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride followed by a little cool-down jaunt of a half marathon. Easy.  

I’ve been on the start-line of 2 middle distance tris before, and the finish line of 1, and I came last. This time I aim not to come last 😀 

So I suppose I’d better get off the couch….

Flexibility

IMG_4048

July has been a good month.  On the first of the month I decide to (again, for the bazillionth time) quit sugar.  This time, I’ve also added in flour products too, which I think was what kiboshed me previously.  The upshot of it is, in the simplest of terms, is that I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, and virtually nothing that comes out of a packet.  Except nuts. Mmmm, nuts…. Anyway, I’m now on day 35, and after weighing myself this morning, I’ve lost 9.2lbs since July 1st, and I’m 1.8lb off having lost 2 stone since last May.  I did have a couple of fish suppers while on holiday which was the only time I ate anything with flour (i.e. the batter), but that seemed to be okay, and didn’t set me off on a sugar-induced rampage, so I can honestly say it’s been easier than I thought.  I was worried it would be difficult to maintain while away for 10 days camping, especially since the final week included staying at a campsite with an amazing tea garden that sells delicious cakes (all well-tested by me last year).  However, I’d made the decision before I left that I was just going to keep doing what I was doing, and it was fine.  I didn’t even really feel tempted.  The only time I’ve had cravings has been in the last week, but that’s hormonal, and I’ve still managed to resist.  So I’m happy with that.  I’m a sugar addict, always have been & always will be, so this is something I just need to do.

While it’s been easy in a lot of respects, what it has made me realise is just HOW much sugary food has dictated my life so far.  Something that still keeps happening, as a kind of unconscious motor-response is that say on a Friday I’ll think “ooh it’s Friday, I can get lots of nice food to eat (i.e. dessert/cake/sweets) tonight,” but then realise that actually I can’t.  Or rather I don’t want to.  When I was driving to Scotland and thought about stopping at service stations for breaks, i immediately wondered what treats I could buy for the next part of the journey.  During the week or at the weekend if I go somewhere, whether in the car or for a walk, I wonder if there’s anywhere I can have a coffee & a cake, or if there are any sweets I can buy.  I still have these thoughts A LOT, but it’s just an echo of the past that hasn’t caught up to the new reality.  I just catch myself and change the story.  I admit that sometimes when I think that I can’t eat ANY of that stuff again, it’s a bit depressing.  But 10 days having fun with lots of different pals proves that the happiness doesn’t come from stuffing my fizog full of sugar, so I’ll get through it.

Eating low carb, high fat (LCHF) means that actually the alternative is eating lots of fresh veggies, cheeses, butter, proteins etc. and it feels satisfying (and still slightly naughty if it’s a creamy sauce, for example, after years of being told fat is bad).  I’m not missing out, especially as it’s a choice.

Financially, I’ve actually noticed that not eating crap has saved lots of money too.  No more nipping to the shop for a treat, or buying cakes with my coffee.  Shopping is an easy experience and I only visit about 2 or 3 aisles in the supermarket now.  It’s probably just as well I’m spending less in that respect, as it’s helping keep me on track with my debt repayment.  What I’m finding though is that unexpected & unplanned expenses are cropping up each month that are utilising all my spare cash, or eating into the small amount of savings I have, such that I’ve not got that buffer anymore.  So I need to have a couple of lean months to get back on track.  Being flexible with it is necessary, but I can’t afford to be too flexible or I’ll keep pushing the end date back.

However, I’ve made the decision to resume my studies in September, even though I’d promised myself a year off.  I wanted a break, but to be honest since my last course finished in April, I’ve had a good break already, and truth be told I miss studying.  Also, I enquired as to whether there was a time limit on completion of the three post-grad certificates I have my eye on (I’ve completed one), as if you do all three you get a Master’s degree.  It turns out there is a limit, so I’ve bitten the bullet and signed up for course two.  I’ll complete the work over 24 months which means I won’t actually need to take any courses in 2018.  The downside is that some of August’s debt repayment money, and all of September’s will now be needed to pay for the course (I’m not credit-carding it!), so I won’t actually be able to pay everything off until March 2018.  It’s okay though, and a price worth paying.

So that’s it really.  Here are a few photos from my trip to Scotland.  I do love my homeland, maybe more of that in another post.  Have a great weekend folks 🙂