Sunday, 16 February 2014

Heavy weather, 'dieting' and losing my 'bus wanker' identity...

It's been tumultuous on the weather front and, for that reason worthy of a mention on NoVisibleLycra. Quite simply every adjective you care to mention: tumultuous, treacherous, even 'a bit blowy'. Although that last one might be considered an understatement too far.

For whatever reason the South West has been very badly hit, probably because the storms that have been ravaging the country have made their way across the Atlantic from the USA where, I've read in news reports, the weather has been even more savage.
Note blue skies – a far cry from hurricane conditions and severe flooding.
This shot taken on Approach Road, Tatsfield as, ironically, we cycled away
from the village, venue of Sunday's ride for Andy and I.

Somerset, Devon and Dorset have virtually been cut off from the rest of the country. The line from Paddington west goes only so far, but it certainly won't go further than Dawlish where the wind and rain has ripped up the line. I've been on that stretch of railway line many times in the past, as editor of a magazine called Pub Food. Yes, I spent six years (1995 to 2001) travelling the length and breadth of the country eating (ahem) pub food, but not just pies and apple crumble, top notch meals in pub restaurants run by top chefs, some well known, some not so well known. The job took me all over the place and I was often in and around Plymouth, meaning I had to take the train from Paddington. There's a stretch of the line that runs right next to the sea, only about twenty feet from it, and I clearly recall whistling through Dawlish and Teignmouth en route to Plymouth and beyond. I've even been to the end of the line – Penzance.

So it was odd seeing the line twisted and flooded and no use to anyone.

Stormy weather hits England hard
Houses not only in the above-mentioned counties but also in and around the River Thames have been severely flooded. There have been photographs of property submerged in up to 4ft of water, distressed homeowners turning away from the reporter's camera, upset about exactly what the future might hold and people getting around on kayaks. Alright, we have stuff like this every year, give or take, but not to this extreme. The army has been called in, even Princes William and Harry have been seen chucking sandbags around. In short it's a disaster and it goes without saying that everything has been disrupted: power, trains, planes, buses, you name it and there's been plenty of moaning too. People have to have somebody to blame and, in addition to the Government, the Environment Agency has been chief target, although, in all fairness, could they really have anticipated storms of this ferocity?

Last night, lying in bed, I listened to the roaring winds as they shook our house and I felt relieved that I was not flying anywhere the following morning, unlike my colleagues Anne and Nadine who were off to San Diego. I, on the other hand, had to take the train to Aylesbury to pick up a Toyota Corolla. As avid readers will know, I was branded a 'bus wanker' recently by a passing motorist. Since my old Kia Piccanto (easily the most annoying looking car I've ever owned) passed away (oil seal and gearbox gone to pot) we've been without a car and it hasn't really affected me as I get trains and planes everywhere (and buses) but other members of the family have been more inconvenienced so while I've often, over the past two months or so, said we could live quite happily without a car, my comments have been met with moans and groans, understandably.

Looking for a car
The last two months, therefore, have been characterised by looking for cars online and visiting a variety of car showrooms, listening to salesmen and women and test driving various cars. We soon realised that the car for us was a Toyota Corolla. Why? Because it's reliable and solid and known in car circles as the most reliable car (and the most popular in terms of sales) in the world. So we set our hearts on one and discovered that they varied in cost from around £2,500 right up to £5,500 – and all for models around 10 years old. The difference in price depended upon the mileage and we wanted one that had done about 45,000 miles and had just one or two owners. I test drove three of them but only one really fitted the bill (and it was in Aylesbury!). We bought it and last Saturday I travelled by train, in the wind and rain, to pick it up and drive it home, losing my 'bus wanker' status as I pulled out of the showroom and headed for the A41.

Because of the car-buying process I haven't been on the bike, but it's also been because of the weather. Last week, due to car-buying, no rides; this week there was no ride on Saturday, although, as I pointed out to Andy yesterday (Sunday 16th February) as we headed towards Tatsfield Village, minus Phil who had family commitments, we probably wouldn't have gone out as the weather was atrocious (wind and rain and dark skies, the usual stuff).

A diet of sorts...
In fact, as I pedalled up Church Way towards Sanderstead High Street – and then powered along the Limpsfield Road towards the bus stop at the top of Sline's Oak Road to meet Andy, I realised that a new, lighter me had been reborn. Ever since before Christmas when I decided that I was eating far too much bread for my own good – let's say 10 slices a day – I've been on a kind of diet. Nothing faddy, I've just stopped eating between meals, cut out chocolate and cakes and, of course, reduced my bread intake down to just two slices a day. Honestly, it was getting silly: I'd get up in the morning, make myself a bread and peanut butter sandwich around 7am, probably have another one to accompany my porridge or Weetabix and, oddly, wouldn't think twice (on some occasions) of throwing in a boiled egg and fingers. Then I'd make myself sandwiches for lunch (using four slices of bread). When I reached the office I would dip my hand into the Celebrations chocolates (should it be anybody's birthday) and then there were the cakes – not only mum's whenever I visited but also cakes brought into the office for birthdays. I was hovering around 14st in weight and was clearly carrying around a lot of extra weight. It slowed me down, occasionally made me short of breath, caused my heart to race at night in bed, prevented a decent night's sleep and so on and so forth.

Overnight I cut out the unnecessary food and the stuff that was probably not going to do me much good: I said goodbye to a sausage or bacon sandwich on the ride (nowt wrong with Phil's excellent creations, but I needed to get my act together. Breakfast was reduced to cereal and a cup of tea; lunch to  a sandwich (two slices only) and some fresh fruit; and then dinner, well, dinner was dinner, but my wife's cooking is light and tasty and very often, although not necessarily consciously, we found we simply weren't eating meat. Instead it was lentils, rice, courgettes (lovely with some curry powder!). In fact, dinner times I allowed myself dessert, figuring it was the big meal of the day, so freshly stewed apples, blackberries and blueberries with some custard – yes, I have Ambrosia Devon Cream – were the order of the day on a couple of occasions or, indeed, apple pie or crumble. The key was to eat at mealtimes and not in between and to reduce the bread intake.

The result is that I've lost just under 21lbs – or a stone and a half – and it shows. My cheeks no longer run into my neck, my trousers and shirts fit me, I sleep better and feel better generally. Sometimes there are pangs of hunger, but I've conditioned myself to ride the lightning and it works. If necessary I just tell myself that I don't need to eat, when I think I do, but the key is not to over-indulge. And where alcohol is concerned, now that I'm not in a job where alcohol is part of the job description, I find that I hardly drink. I hasten to add that I'm not saying no to beer or wine, but by and large, I simply don't drink anymore, bar a glass of wine with a meal on a business trip or, a glass of wine at home.

As I write this sentence, I have just finished two Shredded Wheat and a cup of tea. I won't be eating any more until around noon (it's now 0740hrs). Prior to engaging with this 'diet' I would definitely have eaten at least four slices of bread by now. In fact, the big noticeable difference is that bread is simply not being eaten. A virtual full loaf can be found in the bread bin at any time (in the old days the bin would be bare most days or just crusts would fester there. The key is to keep it going and I see no reason why not.

A pleasant ride to Tatsfield Village
Yesterday's weather for the ride to Tatsfield Village was very pleasant: not too cold, clearish skies, no wind, but it had rained through the night as there were big puddles in the road and Andy reported ice and flooding in the Woldingham area (he met me at the top of Sline's Oak as the Godstone Road has been closed to traffic while the authorities flood certain parts of it and adjoining roads (as well as the underpass by Purley's Tesco) to prevent contaminating local water supplies.

Me and the Kona Scrap, near Tatsfield Village yesterday
The water levels are set to rise, according to news reports, but the strong winds have gone. Outside now (0746hrs) it's grey but dry, but we'll see how the day progresses.

Last night was the BAFTA Awards 2014 and some good movies appear to be around at the moment: American Hustle and Captain Philips being two that I would like to see. Now there's something we rarely do anymore: go to the cinema.

Postscript on 'dieting'
While not eating between meals and not consuming vast quantities of bread, cake and chocolate is one way of not putting on weight, another is to be a 'bus wanker'. Buy yourself an Oyster card and use public transport. You'll find that you walk more than you did when you had a car and that means you'll lose weight. Just a thought!

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