Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bitchy snitch

Sad state of affairs really, but it seems whenever you are off sick, with legitimate reason, with visual causes, and x-rays, bloods and consultations to prove it, for some reason, some sad individuals take it upon themselves to stir.
Now I get it, office gossip is one thing. However taking information you find on a social media feed, and running to upper management to try and stir shit up. Well that's just a whole other level of sad and snide.

Today, on my third day back to work, I had a meeting with a manager, to discuss my recent sickness. I completely agree that it has been dreadful. Long periods of time off, and too many of them for my liking and wellbeing, let alone for an employer. God forbid how it was making little snitchy feel. Must have been like fire ants in the pants! Would explain all the running to the managers.

One thing I do find interesting is the knowledge people have of my communications with management while I was off. Obviously my activities are easy enough to see, you just have to check Facebook, et voila. But knowing what has been said in private emails, well that is a whole other matter now isn't it. Maybe I should go formal with it?

What I find very sad, I mean REALLY sad, is the lengths people will go to to try and cause trouble for others. Almost like they get kicks from it. There is certainly no other benefit to doing it.
This isn't the first time either, with the occurrences in 2011 when a file was collated regarding my activities, and presented to management with such strong will and intent, it almost cost me my job. Thankfully the management saw through the ill intent of the information, let alone its inaccuracies, and it was dropped.

Fast forward 6 years, and the same shit just happened again. Now I have my suspicions on who it is, and I worry for them, I really do. I am not one to mock mental health, in fact I take it very seriously. With than in mind I wonder if the person has any issues which cause them to behave that way.  I should point out that I am not the only one who has had a secret dossier compiled.

Now the good thing is, due to some discrepancies in the formal actions taken by my past manager, sadly due to his failing health and subsequent passing, I have been , I quote "thrown a life line". So this recent meeting has amassed to nothing really.

Now I want to point out that I am truly grateful for the way things have been handled, and the outcome. It is not something I feel I deserved or was entitled to. As I have said, my sickness has been terrible, and I must really be flavour of the month right now, both in the office and the company. It is not something I am proud of.
With that said, if said person is SO interested  in my medical details, I will quite happily wish some of the pain I have been feeling recently upon them, then they can see how they like it.

Even some of the details in todays discussion were fresh from the bitch mill. Somehow finding the fact that I am riding a bike to work a cause for concern. Well dear boy, that is what being off sick is for, to recover, and come back fit and well. Some might choose to forget that my foot was getting bad a couple of months back, but I gave up riding in, and drove to work in considerable pain, to try and be helpful as we were short staffed. Funnily enough I didn't get reported to management for that. Hmmm.

It is quite clear things are not going to change, and that the person seems to have an unhealthy obsession with my behaviour. But doesn't seem interested in addressing it openly and face to face. Aaah well, I don't know if I should be scared or honoured. Either way, please feel free to continue your bitchy snitchy behaviour, and I will continue to conduct myself in a respectable, and above board manner. One of us has to !

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dear students... #WorldMentalHealthDay

First off, I just wanted to say, publicly, what a pleasure it was to meet you all today, and thank you for your time listening to me rambling on about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and lets not forget gout.
As I said at the time, I am truly passionate about helping people have a greater understanding of what it is like to suffer from depression. Feeling a bit down, or a bit grumpy is really not the same. I really do admire people like yourselves who take the path in life to try and help others, however sometimes feel that the theoretical education somehow lacks enough depth to truly grasp some conditions.

I hope today was helpful for you all, and that in amongst some of my tales and analogies, there was some clarity there too. I am grateful for the feedback you all gave at the end, and hope you took as much away from the session as I did. Thank you to Dr Paul for having the foresight to suggest the session in the first place.

There are of course many other matters we did not get to discuss, compacting a few years of depression, the rises and falls, is of course impossible for a 90 minute session. Hopefully in amongst the rest of this blog (Nov 2015- Mid 2016) there is more information on the subjects which may be of interest. There are also entries from way back too which reflect on the depression. My journey through CBT is also in there somewhere.

If you have any further questions about the issues we discussed today, please feel free to contact me via the blog, or emailing me with any questions on snazy123@gmail.com. Also, feel free to share this blog with anyone you choose to, there are no secrets, especially on the internet.

Getting back to the main part of the blog here. I just wanted to add that physical training, cycling, writing, and believe it or not, being tattooed, all play their part in the maintenance of my well-being, as well of course as having the love and support of my close friends, who keep me grounded.

Today for me was a stepping stone, a step in the right direction for me, with getting involved in something I am very passionate about. The understanding, from a first person perspective, of what depression is, how people cope, and what can be done to help them on their journey.

For many, depression and anxiety is not a life long issue, but a journey taken within our lives, more for some than others. Seeing people convinced that they must live by the pill is quite sad, and also worrying. Not to mention the lifestyle choice that people make when they are convinced this is them for life now.  Talking with people who understand and can genuinely empathise with what you are going through is a massive step, certainly for the people I have had the pleasure in helping in my past.
However not all cases are the same, and the idea of getting involved is in no way a pipe dream of a one size fits all fit.

For me, the idea of being able to play a part in other peoples recovery is huge. I don't expect every encounter to be perfect, and am aware that my personality may not be suitable for all. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.
If actually being involved directly is not a reality, then the next best thing would be to continue to give my time to enable those who will one day be at the frontline of things. Using every day analogies to make sense of how the depressed mind works. I was pleased that my "it's like" approach finally made some sense today.

After speaking with Dr Paul following the session, I am going to try and get my head around how I can get more involved. Organisations such as MIND are a good starting point, my only concern is how to explain my intentions, with absolutely no academic background whatsoever. We shall see how that goes, I will be sure to update the blog with any progress I make, as well as Dr Paul.

Any thoughts on this venture are welcomed.

Today once and for all clarified for me that I am in the right place mentally now, to start reducing my medication, clear the mind fog which sometimes presents itself, and get on with doing something constructive with my time.
If a legacy were possible for someone like myself, it would be wonderful to think that my efforts and words could be carried forward, and make a difference for even a handful of people. Especially those who are not as fortunate as myself, and have no immediate outlet or support network.

I know I said some pretty damning things both on here, and today about the services offered to those suffering mental health issues. I hope I struck the balance of both grateful and understanding of what is deemed possible from an academic level, whilst highlighting the short falling, and no mans land between what is written and understood, and what actually works for people struggling. There is a balance to be found, and hopefully one day, maybe with input from me and others, it will be achieved.

The message to take is quite simply, the input from the NHS and other health services is instrumental in building the foundations for a recovery from such an experience in life. However theoretical empathy only goes so far. Understanding, and experience bridges the gap which is left. There is nothing quite like being on the level with someone who truly gets where you are coming from.
Building baselines for all to understand, and be able to empathise with is key here, so expect to hear "it's like" quite a lot from me.

Now I shall take some time to reflect on today, and formulate a way which I can try and create this baseline. The input from the students today has been key in building my understanding of what is in place, and what is missing from the current structure. Although I would love to build my knowledge on the academic side of things more for my own benefit and understanding.

Key words from today, baseline, empathy, analogy and understanding.

Just as a final note, I want to sincerely thank Dr Paul for her time for me since we first met. That first blog entry following the consultation was a pivotal moment for me, as has been the continued support from you. To have been given the opportunity to carry out todays exercise has been very special for me, especially on what turned out to be World Mental Health Day. Imagine that.

Here's to the future. For us all :)

Thanks for reading as ever.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

What can I do to help?

It is so frustrating at times to site idle while others suffer. Knowing you have information which could help others, you have the ability and time to talk to people who need someone to speak to. Yet no way or means to get involved at the grass roots level.

Over the past few days I have been looking into jobs in mental health, what qualifications are needed, and how I can help with the basic skill set I have. Apparently there isn't a way. Which while understandable, is also frustrating. Sure you can teach people the basics of mental health, draw up a curriculum which covers all the bases, make sure people understand the fundamentals of depression and anxiety. But you can't teach experience.

Somewhere there should surely be a crossover point, where experience and education meet, and can be combined to provide the services which are needed most by those suffering. It is great seeing big names coming out and admitting they are affected by depression, and explain their struggles. Saying things others can relate to, and feel like someone understands them. But that is where it ends. When you come forward and look for help, the understanding ends, and the empathy of education presents itself for the first time.

Having someone tell you they understand, because they have read about it is NOT the same as having someone share stories, or finish your tale for you, showing they truly know what the moment can do to you. The lack of this actual understanding is crippling for some, I certainly lost all faith for quite some time. Luckily I had the guidance to keep pushing me to keep going to the meetings, and to try and see what I could inject into the meetings to try and make them a little more "real" for others so to speak.

The thing I found was, as soon as I started openly sharing how certain incidents and events had made me feel, the whole group seemed to engage, waiting to share their experience too. A few meetings later and it had become the norm for me to offer a story, a real life example of such a feeling, to get the ball rolling, and by the end of the session we were all much more open about yet another aspect of depression or anxiety.

The difference to the first few weeks, and the attempts by the course tutors you try and get people talking, asking complete strangers to interact was almost troubling rather than helpful. Only being able to teach and discuss what you have learned from a book or lectures, while on paper might sound great, really isn't. I reflect back to when my daughter was being born, and the midwife told her mum to relax and enjoy the beauty of birth. When asked how many children she had, she replied none. That didn't get a great response. How can you tell someone how to feel about an experience you have never had... Quite simple, you can't.
In very few walks of life would you take advice from someone who only has theoretical experience in something. So when it comes to something as personal and unique as depression, the textbooks just don't cut it.

I desperately want to be able to intervene. Play a role in getting people who are hidden away in their heads, suffering in silence, speaking out. Not to the world, but just to a human who can be compassionate and genuinely empathise with them. Someone who can give their thoughts the time of day, and allow them to vent all the negativity that is drowning them.
You see, for me, and in my experience, speaking out is the first and most important key to the whole experience. While I have always been open enough to speak to a lot of people about it, there is a time when you feel you have exhausted them with the same stories, and you need someone else to talk to, a blank canvas. Unbiased, non judgemental, and willing to listen.
For me on my last round of depression, that person was Dr Elizabeth Paul at Wells Park Surgery. As my original entry says, I walked in silent, sat and just gazed. There was no immediate prompt from her, just a simple smile which gave me the courage to start trying to explain myself.

The whole entry is here... http://michaelsnasdell.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/the-trip-to-doctors.html

My point here is really, that there is no one right person or way for everyone, we each need to find our own. The person or situation we feel comfortable with, to finally take the first meaningful step. When I have spoken to others about their depression, the common thing I find is the almost relief shown by the person, when you can actually, first hand, appreciate the magnitude of what you are saying.
An example being, going to meet with a friend while I was mid way through my fight with depression most recently. I chose a place to have lunch, somewhere I knew would be quiet, no crowds. My anxiety at that stage was very bad, so people were not my favourite things.
All was fine to start with, however when we started eating, more people started coming in, sitting closer and closer to us. Paradise lost! Matt had no idea what was going on inside my head, but mad panic is the only thing I can describe it as.
When we left and were talking afterwards, in the nicest possible way, it was impossible for him to understand the difference 4-6 more people coming in had made. However speaking to other friends who have been through the same, they got it straight away.

The big issue here is, a lot of people just don't have "that person" around them, and most of the help on hand seems to be from people who are well educated in the field, but really can't fully grasp what you mean. This is a big stumbling block for people. Having finally spoken out about how you are feeling, to suddenly be faced with a stranger who wants to help you, but doesn't understand you, is crippling.

From my experience, things didn't go well from the start. From my first face to face with someone, it felt like I was doomed. The full blog of my first impressions is here.... http://michaelsnasdell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/touching-base.html

You may be able to tell from the words that it didn't really go too well, and I was left with a rather bitter taste in my mouth. If you read entries further into January, you will see things didn't exactly get much better, not for a while.
Had this interaction been with someone who could understand and properly empathise and assess what I was going through, I think I would have felt much better about the matter. Seeing the speed at which some people dropped out of the subsequent CBT course, I guess for some it didn't get better soon enough. When CBT was explained to me, it was a very rough and vague explanation, reading up on it wasn't much help either. It was only being there, and manipulating it to my own needs, that finally started to make a difference.

After the initial discussion about what CBT was, these were my thoughts.

But the thought I can't get out of my head right now, is the was CBT has been presented to me. My interpretation being that I am in control of my thoughts, and therefore if my thoughts are my problem, and I am in control, it is all my fault. That's how my brain takes it right now. Being told you simply CAN'T do or think something is not a cure. Breaking the cycle, which I know is what CBT is really about is the key. But how do do you that when there are so many triggers and issues to over come?
Here was a person of sound mind, with questionable experience with depression, certainly first hand, telling me in short that I was the issue, and I needed to just forget about the past, and look forwards. Not a great deal of help.

I would dearly love to be able to help people get through this first major step in the program. But it appears academics comes first. To me that feels like teaching someone who can already run, to walk again, because they didn't learn properly. Sometimes, certificates, diplomas and grades count for absolutely nothing at all. Sure, along the process they are without a doubt very important, but for some aspects, you just need to understand, properly. Especially when trying to convince someone to walk out of their door into daylight for the first time in a month.

So here I am, frustrated that due to my lack of qualifications, I am near helpless to play a role in this. Sure some will say, volunteer for Samaritans or similar, but that is just not it. Could I turn my hand to such a thing, probably, would it be as fulfilling as the feeling I felt helping my fellow sufferers through their battle with depression, probably not.

At the end of my CBT course I did consider asking to be the plant in the room, the one who has been through the course, but is there to go through the course again, and try and get things moving. Sure the tutors are doing their best, but from speaking to them, the drop out rate is high, and our group had a "good" retention rate compared to some. That left me thinking that there must be more that can be done.
In the end the course certainly played its part in my recovery, as did a network of friends, and carefully considered distractions. But I honestly feel that I was very close to not bothering with the course, as my blogs show. Had I had some understanding and encouragement from someone who got it, earlier in te process, I might have started feeling a bit more positive sooner.

I applaud anyone who trains to work in mental health. It is a huge problem for our nation, and one which is only getting better. Lack of funding, not enough genuine cases being recognised, but for me, the biggest issue is the lack of understanding in what really helps people in such crisis.


So I am off to scour the internet fr ways I can be more helpful to others. I will also be speaking to my favourite GP about the matter when we meet on Tuesday. I know she won't have the answers, but it is a start, and keeps my mind heading in the right direction.
Any thoughts on how I can get involved are welcomed, so please drop me an email or similar.

Thanks for reading, and here's to getting a better understanding for those suffering.











Thursday, October 5, 2017

Depression!

Yes, I know I write a lot about depression. Strange really, but it does consume quite a large chunk of my life in fairness. But this time it is a different perspective.
In the past I have recorded the lows of my days, expressing the loss of control, the uncontrollable feeling of nothingness, and the pointless battle of trying to get out from the slump. Then there have been the fight backs, the recovery, and the jubilation of once again rising from the pit of despair.
Not forgetting my attempts to explain the inexplicable to those who want to, or think they do understand the true depth of depression.

But like I say, this is different. A recent consultation offered me a unique new perspective on the whole matter, and made me realise there is more I could do, should the opportunities arise. To date, I have not sought such a thing. Although have recently set out on a vlogging mission, thanks to another chance encounter with another medical professional.

Back when I did my CBT course, I became aware that I grew in strength and self understanding, while talking to others about my journey. Not counsellors, but a group who were too suffering from anxiety and depression. As the course went on, so I realised that telling your stories, as you understand them, to others, helps them see patterns, and routines in their own lives. Once aware, you are slightly more able to take control. Spurred on by the confidence gained from realising you are not alone, and you are indeed understood by someone at least.
By the end of the course, I was overwhelmed by the number of people from the group who felt I had played a positive part in their improvements, and that my openness was key to that.

On speaking to my GP yesterday, I was very surprised when she expressed an interest in me helping educate a group of medical students. As we discussed it, the idea grew. On agreeing to the the seminar , I realised it is something that really interests me. When my mind is clear, I love trying to put things together and help others understand depression, from my perspective at least. Both medical professionals, and sufferers have something to gain from such discussions.
I am not saying I am the Messiah, and the key to depression. I am not for one second suggesting I understand depression in all its guises, I really don't. However I do believe I have built an understanding of what you might call standard depression and anxiety can drive you to.

Seeing others speaking out on a larger platform about how they have battled with mental health makes me almost feel like I could do more. Be it making myself available to speak to others, getting going on the vlogging, or writing more, I'm not sure. But I do know one thing without a modicum of doubt, I feel compelled to make a difference, and I am truly passionate about helping with depression and anxiety. Maybe sharing my stories with medical students is just the beginning. Maybe I can do this more often?Who knows, but I will be sure to speak to the GP about this.

When I am low, I don't look for help, but occasionally will reach out to someone I know I can trust. I am truly blessed to have a small group of friends who understand this, and are amazing at what they offer at these times. However I am so very aware of how long it takes to build the trust to speak to someone you know about it, or even find someone in your circles who you can talk to. Believe me when I say, that alone is one of the toughest parts of recovery.
For some people, they will either never gain such confidence in their friends, or simply not have the network there to embrace them. This is where it becomes problematic.

When you finally reach out for help, you speak to a GP. The standard assessment will be made, the score will be taken, and if necessary, medication will be prescribed. Sadly for some this is the start of the end. With a health service under pressure, and quite frankly such little understanding of depression from the majority of GP's , you take the pills, feel a bit more balanced, and on you continue. No big attempt to solve the cause of the issue. Being such a vast condition, to a degree I totally understand why this happens.

However, if you fall and bend your leg awkwardly, you are not given painkillers and crutches and sent on your way. Investigations are possible to see the cause of the pain, and treatment given accordingly. Unfortunately the physical body is far easier to make sense of than the brain. And we are full circle on why most cases of depression or anxiety are left unexplained.

If you are lucky like me, and you get an amazing and passionate GP, like Dr Paul, your hopes are better. Along with Dr Mason (my work doctor) they supported me to the point where I could carry on without support. Like the leg injury, they were my crutches which carried me until I could manage alone. From simple sit downs to express where I was mentally, to dosing changes. And of course shoving me in the right direction to get CBT, and stick at it.

Of the tens of thousands of people in the UK on Citalopram and other such medications, I would be curious to know what percentage have ever had any further interventions than being medicated.
I am not saying medication is a bad thing, or evil and addictive. Far from it in fact. But as in my early blog, for me the medication is only there for me to rise back up from the depths of depression, and regain control over the matters which influence my mental state.

Debts, relationships, work and so much more can influence our state of mind.We can get down about it for a while, or we can fall further, lose control and begin to curl up to hide away from it all. That is the point where intervention is needed, and not always just in the medication way. Meds are not the solution for all. In fact I would bet most could be back off them, and balanced of their own accord within a year or so. Depending of course on the changes in their lives, and the root causes of their initial downward spiral.

Sitting here tapping away, I would love to learn more about the subject, and write something meaningful about it, something helpful. A first hand account of what some are going through, and a look through window into the future of hope. I am not the solution, I am not the cure, but I am experienced, and open enough to discuss it with others. Knowing my blog has been read by strangers and impacted them positively just increases my drive to help more.
Speaking to the students could just be the beginning. For the rest of the journey, I need to find my way.

Deep breath, count to ten... Take control!

As I sit at the kitchen table, starting to write this blog, for which I have taken 24 hours to think of a name for, I am starting to understand my mindset on the whole matter.

The past year has been very different for me. Meeting Ann, moving in together, making huge physical and mental progress, as well as having many hiccups along the way. Roughly two years ago I was just starting to get caught in the whirlpool of depression. Starting to feel myself losing control, realising I was getting down, and fighting to keep my head above water. After a year long fight, I was in a position where I could say I finally felt back in control of things.

However being in a new relationship, and facing a very different living dynamic than the one I was used to, I wanted to tread carefully, and not rush myself off medication, or into to many changes at once. Almost another year later and I am finally in a position where I feel comfortable in considering a reduction in medication, and taking full control back.

Having been on Citalopram for 2 years now, I am more than aware that being off them will feel rather different to what I have grown used to. Since the first time on them, I am aware of the slight lethargic feeling they cause, which you just grow to accept in your day to day life. My recollection from coming off them last time is clear, and I remember how much more energised I felt, for the first few weeks at least. After that, well that is up to the individual.

And this is where the blog starts really.
There is an inherent fear of losing control early on, when there is no medication to "save you" from what life throws at you. When something unforeseen happens, you have no safety net to catch you. Truth be known, there never was. There is a placebo effect that is common when on such medication, and you feel safe, cocooned if you may. Such faith in the meds, that you feel stronger, and more resistant to outside influences. In reality, your mind is more chemically balanced, the right signals are being sent, and you take strength from this feeling. Almost a sense of enhanced confidence.

This confidence is something a lot of people lack, and it is what starts the downward spiral in the first place for some. Simple matters defeat you, worries begin to control you, and soon you are just along for the ride. The ability to remain in control is what gives this heightened sense of confidence.

Realising this is key for me, especially right now, as I approach the first drop in my Citalopram dose for about 18 months now. Knowing that the sense of control I feel I have now is all me, and not the medication is a sobering thought. It shows me that this person is me, I am not the product of the medication. I am however aware of the balance that the medication has restored in me, and am in no rush to immediately come completely off it. There may be a balance to be found between me and the meds, then again, I may be free of it entirely in the coming months.

The title of the blog is a mantra I need to keep in mind at all times. From home life to work life. Flat out training, to resting in the evening. There are always moments where we need to pause for thought, compose ourselves, and react rationally.  I found myself practising it yesterday in fact, which is what spawned this blog, realising I was actually in control.

A spanner thrown into the works of the day, churning up my thoughts, whilst in mid flow of writing another blog. My initial reaction, rage, anger, and fire straight back. Closing the laptop and walking away for 10 mins was a good start. Deep breath.

Distracting myself with something else, watching a YouTube video, gave me time to consider the matter, and contemplate my response. Was one even needed. Count to ten, think about it.

With a few minutes taken to consider the outcomes of all scenarios (classic trait of an over thinker, but that is another story) I relaxed. Realising that any response would simply perpetuate the situation, and each cycle would simply trouble me more, and not resolve anything. Sometimes the cause is just not worth the battle.

That however is just one example. Somehow my mind finds itself in these situations too often, and that is my next battle. There is only so much one can do when it comes to change and influence. Speak your mind if there is hope of a constructive outcome. If the outcome is pretty clear from the offset, why even bother involving and upsetting yourself? A mantra I can recite, but not one I am familiar with following, yet!

To support this change in medication, and what will no doubt be a bit of a strange time for me, to say the least, I have also decided to take control of matters in other ways too.

Having been sat at home bored senseless for weeks on end this year, with foot issue after foot issue, the time has come to stand up to it, pun intended. Having now been through the medical mill, tested, scanned, xrayed, medicated, reviewed, and currently going through physio, the one message I have taken from it is, it's not going to get better any time soon. However, gently pushing on should cause minimal harm.

Now a long way away from my 3,000 mile cycling goal this year, this is one of the things which stresses me out, after all cycling is my great escape. And my very own body has denied my mind this escape. Failure is NOT an option, I must succeed.

Whilst in with the doctor yesterday, which I will return to shortly, I discovered my weight has skyrocketed while I have been laid up, and I am now a HUGE 117kg or 257lbs (18.3 stone). A month ago I was 245lbs! This is not good, neither mentally nor physically. Extra strain on my body is unwanted, and is just going to cause me more issues, especially as it is my feet which have to bear the brunt of it all.

So, medication change is tied first place with weight loss. They go hand in hand, and support one another. Health = movement, movement = freedom, freedom = happiness, happiness = good mental health. I am not unfamiliar with losing weight or increasing fitness, in fact I love the challenge of it, but the timing has to be right.
Knowing I have almost 1,000 more miles to cycle this year is a kick in the backside for sure. With my experience of low calorie diets, HIIT (high intensity interval training) and getting stuck into long rides, I reckon the bar should be set high for my improvements for myself this year. Targets yet to be set, but rest assured they wont be easy ones.

So the plan, as with the medication is to get started with it all next week. One big start line for the whole lot. This coincides with my return to work also, so that alone will help with the routine side of things. It also gives me the remainder of this week to work on the advice from the physio, to regain more movement in my right ankle before working it. There are 87 days left in this year or just over 12 weeks, so plenty of time to get back where I want to be.  Watch this space.

In the meantime, I will carry my mantra, Breath, count, control, and apply it to any challenge which presents itself. It is simple really, the hardest part for me will be preventing the initial knee jerk reaction, to let the rest of the cycle play out. But I know I can do it, if I put my mind to it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On the eve of the wedding...

Sitting here after a long time if doing nothing, I am becoming really good at deep thinking again. So when I think about Lee getting married tomorrow, I thought I would reflect on what that means to me.

Lee is a guy I got chatting to 10 years ago when we both had the same make of car. Chatting on a forum for a couple of years, before I stopped using it. Then seeing him pop up on my social media feed, and occasionally conversing. I have many mates like this, and love having them.

So a 18 months ago, struck down with depression, I was surprised to hear from him. We weren't close, I wasn't expecting outside help, and sure wasn't totally confident about letting an outsider in with such things.

We had many chats here and there, then out of the blue he suggested that we do lunch. Already struggling with going out in the wild, making eye contact, etc, the idea of meeting a new person, in a new place and opening up seemed ridiculous. However, clean out of other ideas, I went with it.

That invitation and decision has genuinely proven a life changer to me. That day we talked about everything, and genuinely left feeling much better, and as if I had known him for years. Both sharing personal stuff, things we held dear and private.

From that day on we have stayed in touch. Not an every day thing, but when we want to blow off steam, talk something through, or just someone to pass time chatting to, it's good to know the other is there. Some of the conversations have been rather strange, but the bond we have formed is fantastic.

With the birth of his son, when we visited, I finally got to meet the amazing future wife, Sarah. To see them together is beautiful, synchronicity at its finest, with little Harry is the cherry on the top.

I could go on for ages, singing praises, but I will save that for a private conversation.

So for now I will sum up with this.
Thank you Lee for all you have done for me. Bringing me back from the edge, being there when I needed someone to keep me sane. Thank you for trusting me enough to become part of your life on so many levels.

I am so happy to know tomorrow is just around the corner, and that finally you will be bonded with an amazing woman, and that you will be taken care of and be as happy as you both deserve to be.

Love ya man.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

To push, or not to push, that is the question!

Since turning to a single speed bike, and commuting to work, I have learned a lot, about both about myself, and cycling in general.
Having spent the past year on 22 speed bikes, it turns out I have been spoilt. Learning to ride within rather variable thresholds, and if the going gets tough, drop a gear.
Obviously with a single speed (SS) this is not possible, so it is all about planning a manageable route, and at the same time approaching it with the right mindset. Something that has taken me a while to grasp. I have already found a few hills which have defeated me, but will be giving them another go in months to come.

Starting out with my first SS being the Claud Butler Lombard St with a 46/16 set up, I learned the basics of getting into a comfortable rhythm, and discovered what my pace was, or there abouts. Then switching to the Specialized Langster, with a 48/16 set up, the going got a little tougher, especially on the inclines. To give an idea of the sort of elevation I am doing on an SS, I average about 500-750ft on a 10-15 mile commute. So not terrible, but there are a couple of little climbs that get the old ticker working harder.

One thing I have really learned to respect, especially over the past couple of windy weeks, is when to push and when to just go with the flow. Riding a roadie with 22 options of gear to be in, it is so easy to just drop a cog and keep pushing. It takes a while to learn the difference between change in elevation and road surfaces, to the resistance of the wind. When its just elevation, and fatigue, dropping a gear makes sense. But when you are into a steady headwind, it is pointless pushing too hard, otherwise you are just burning energy for nothing. In some winds, you can only push so hard.

With the SS, it is quite obvious when such a moment arises, your speed drops rapidly, the effort increases, and you quickly learn to ease up and go with the flow. Something I have struggled with for a long time now, feeling its all about attacking with all you have, all the time.
For me, pushing too hard at the wrong times, causes rapid muscle fatigue, which takes some time to recover from. So on the SS I have slowly learned my limits for pushing, and how long and hard I can push for, before reaching the stage of really slow recovery (1-2 mins before I can push on at normal pace again)

Having grasped that basic, it has enabled me to work on my next weakness, standing and pedalling. For the whole of last year, standing to do a climb has been impossible, because of my stubbornness to train. However with the SS, it is something I have had to just shut up and get on with. And I am pleased to say that I have seen a huge improvement in my ability. To the point that I lapped Richmond last weekend, and managed to stay in a higher gear, while pushing on up one of the little climbs, and reached the top with only a short period of recovery riding needed. Still more than I had planned on, but the power and cadence figures made me smile, so that's what counts.

As the ability has grown, so has the confidence. And with that comes more miles. First few weeks I did the straight point to point ride to and from work. 5 miles each way, no elevation to speak of, and a 20 min ride at best each way. As I got braver, adding a few extra miles in here and there seemed the right thing to do, and before I knew it I was doing 7-10 miles each way. Seeing the miles clocking up on Strava, I suddenly got motivated. With 2 months of no riding leaving me with a mileage deficit for the year on my 3,000 mile goal, commuting was going to get me back on track. Sure enough, as the weeks have gone by, so have the miles, and today I am finally back ahead of the curve.

I can average 100 miles a week now, double that of which is required. And with the weather improving (not including this cold windy spell we are going through) the distances are creeping up more. With 144 miles being the most for a week this year, this week is looking pretty good, with just shy of 100 miles up until Thurs AM ride, plenty of time to add to that, and ever closer to my first 1,000 miles of the year. 4 months in, 1/3 of the way, and with some time spent away from the bike, I feel positive.

The SS has really helped me find my riding style, and for anyone looking to build themselves up from a plateau, I can't recommend it enough. What was a simple cost saving exercise, and a replacement for my Smart Car commute to work, has become a new passion for me. Constantly wanting to broaden my horizons, and push the boundaries of the commute. In recent days I have been doing 20 mile one way journeys, with slightly shorter return trips, clocking up 30 miles a day, rather than the 10 required. I am hooked. Now I find myself wanting to make changes to Luigi too (the Langster SS)

Today I ventured to Woolwich in the hope of catching the ferry to the North side, then passing City Airport on my way to work. Alas it was not running, so maybe next time eh.  Til then, I will keep pushing, look forwards to any rides on the Mekk's I can get in with friends, and watch that mileage tally rise.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Me and my health.

The good news is, mentally I am fine. Phew, that's a relief.

However physically, things are a little more grim for me.
The first couple of months of the year I have struggled with foot pain. To the point where shoes and walking were a no no. Occasionally venturing out on the bike, desperate to keep my legs spinning, only to be rewarded with even worse foot pain.

With that now somewhat under control, my body thought long and hard, before giving me the next challenge. Delivered in a gold envelope by a smug looking twat in a lab coat, no wait, that's Top Gear...
Over the past few weeks, both at work and at home, people have commented on me breathing heavily. At the same time I have noticed that I labour a little with certain tasks. Usually walking or climbing stairs. Up until this time, I have been fine, walked at a good pace, climbed stairs with no issue. (Remember taking the stairs to the 22nd floor at Guys Hospital?). So obviously this has caused some concern for me.

This time of year, a lot of people with asthma (like me) struggle a little more with hayfever and other allergies causing complications. But for me that usually appears along with a chesty cough getting me all blocked up. This time, nothing. Antihistamines don't seem to help either, again they usually would. And finally my inhaler has little if no effect whatsoever.

To just spice things up a little more, my body decided to throw heart palpitations in the mix too. It's all the chest, right! Now as an avid cyclist, who strangely during all this, can actually still cycle like a nutter (confusing right!) I see my heart rate quite a lot, and push my body quite hard. Nothing abnormal shows on my HR, and there are no unexpected weaknesses or shortness of breath etc.

On speaking to my GP, he has arranged for a set of tests to be run. Bloods, heart trace, and a breathing function test. First two are done, 12 lead ECG appears fine, bloods we will see, and breathing function is being tested at the weekend. Hopefully they will point at something, as it would be a lie to say it doesn't concern me slightly. If not, the tests go on, to see what is going on in there.

I reminded myself to write this on the way back from the shops just now. Slow steady pace walking, warm but not uncomfortable day, 1 mile or so round trip. Being overtaken by people with walking trolleys, and feeling like I am labouring to carry on. Taking my heart rate on the way around, nothing shocking to see. 80-85 bpm, which is pretty good going for the conditions. Made the trip fine, but this is just one of many journeys on foot which I have made and struggled with.

The confusing part is, it can be walking or getting up that temporarily knocks me for six. But cycling, I can go on forever. The GP suggested, as expected, that weight may be a contributing factor, which I completely accept. I am indeed overweight, but should add I have not gained weight in months, so why suddenly now feel this way. And why do some less intense activities affect me worse than being bent over cycling?

Right now, it's all a mystery to me, and everyone else, but hopefully there will be some answers soon.

So that is my little update. Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It takes all sorts (of cyclists)

The more I ride in London, especially at peak time as a commuter, the more I can see the various groups of cyclists, and how they behave. I have reached the point now where my observations are complete enough to break cyclists down into categories, especially when it comes to behaviour at crossings and traffic signals.
So I thought I would dedicate this entry to those groups, and maybe ramble on a little more about other bits in the process.

If you ignore all the other habits and behaviours of cyclists for now, and just concentrate on how they behave when approaching, and when stopped (or not as the case may be) at traffic signals and crossings. So here we go.

Let us take a pretty standard traffic control signal. Traffic lights have gone red on the cyclists approach, and the stop line has an ASL (Advanced Stop Line) for cyclists to start ahead of the pack so to speak. The highways code would have they cyclist stop in the painted box forward of the stop line for traffic, and behind the ASL. This is deemed a safe and visible place for cyclists to wait. Obviously in some cases it is not possible to filter through to reach this. But for this scenario, you can.

On arrival at the lines, we then see different behaviours appear.
The Law Abider. The Creeper. The Ignorant Twat, are the main three.

The Law Abider, as the name suggests, will arrive at the box, stop inside it, and consider their road positioning ready for when the lights change, allowing where possible, traffic to pass them safely and ASAP.

The Creeper however will obey the stop line, for a moment at least. Before beginning to creep forwards. More common on longer sequences, in some cases The Creeper will decide the way is clear, it is pointless waiting for the lights to change, and off they go.
Similar to how a pedestrian behaves at a crossing really.

The Ignorant Twat however doesn't care for lights, instructions or signs, and has a PB to achieve, so just sails through any kind of stop sign, as they are untouchable, and VERY important! Or so they like to believe.

You have other variations of the above, such as Sailing Sally. A lady I see quite frequently with her little bike, complete with basket and flapping hi-vis jacket. Ignoring pelican crossings, swerving around people on zebra crossings, but obeying traffic lights at junctions where her safety may be compromised. So its all about YOU. Ignore the fact you might harm pedestrians or ever startle them, as long as you are not knocked off jumping lights at a junction.

We can't of course forget the pavement jumper. Hopping onto the pavement to pass the crossing, so not to wait for lights, before hopping back down the other side and carrying on along their merry way. Cheeky, yes, but also dangerous for pedestrians.

The funniest thing about these people, the ones too important or impatient to wait for lights is that they never seem to get anywhere. I commute on a single speed 46/16 heavy old steel bike, I am far from light either, and plod along at a leisurely 14mph average. However at least 75% of the people who jump lights etc to get ahead are not going hell for leather, and I in fact catch and pass them in a short time. Sometimes a few times in one journey. So what the hell is the point?

The bit I find most infuriating about this is the groups of cyclists who apparently spend a lot of their time riding about, but are completely blinkered to this sort of behaviour. Remember this blog entry is only about ONE behaviour, I will cover more another time.
Whenever there is an accident, cries of dangerous road users and conditions go out, but never accepting that sometimes, it is the exact behaviours discussed above, which have led to the accident.

I know from my own experience that there are some very dangerous drivers out there, in all sorts of vehicles. Only the other evening I had an articulated lorry over take me just going into a left hand bend. Thankfully I was aware of him, so backed out of it. Even more thankfully as I saw the trailer come in VERY close to the apex. I would have been hit for sure. So it's not all one sided, and I have never thought this.

If so much can go wrong when no one is even meant to be moving, imagine the stupid behaviour of some of these people when interacting with moving traffic. Something I will cover another time.

For now, cyclist, pedestrian, motorist. Keep your eyes open, and look at how different groups behave out there. Sadly there is no pattern of tell tale sign of how anyone is going to behave, so for now, treat them with caution.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Leisure cycling VS Commuter cycling.

Over recent weeks I have finally taken the step I have threatened to for a long time. I have dusted off the as yet unused Claud Butler Lombard St, single speed I bought last year. Slapped some Continental Gatorskin 25's on it, my collection of Lezyne lights, and my Garmin Edge 810, and started using it for the short commute to work.

I would love to say the decision was driven by my desire for a cleaner London, because of Sadiq Kahn's constant babble about it, but that just would not be true. Although it does indeed mean I am creating less pollution, and one extra parking space in SE16.

If there is one thing I am very conscious of when it comes to cycling, especially in London, it is visibility, and being seen. Wearing the right gear is key to me. Lycra is a necessary evil I'm afraid, and it is used shamelessly, daily! Hi-vis, reflective, lights, good helmet, and my new best friend, my Deuter Race Exp Air backpack. What a piece of kit it is. A commuter cyclists best friend.

Last year, when I started cycling lots, I became very engrossed in leisure road rides, solo and with friends, I covered 2,000 miles "just for fun". Whenever anyone asked why I didn't ride to work, the age old excuse of "the roads are too dangerous" was useless, as I was using them for most rides anyway. So a new excuse was invented. "It's not worth the time getting ready"
In fairness this is a valid point, especially when getting ready for a long road ride, but with a few tweaks, it's actually not too bad.

Swapping bib shorts for undershorts, and topping them with overshorts. Having most things for the ride pre-packed into my backpack and saddle bag. The simplicity of a single speed, and the lack of cleats, means I can almost just get on and go. As long as I have a change of clothes at the other end of course. And so it begun.

With a couple of test rides to find a route and my rhythm, I felt I was ready to take on the commute daily First few days were exhausting. While not a long ride, it's a shock to get up from a desk and ride, especially early days. A few weeks in, and its all good fun.

Given that the ride to work is now only about 17 mins (5 Miles), my old excuse about the time to get ready is still valid. It would be pointless almost. But as it is getting easier, I have become more adventurous about the routes I take, adding more and more miles to both directions. A 10 mile round trip can now be up to 25 miles long. Still room to add to that of course, but early days. It has also driven me to a whole new collection of challenges I didn't even know existed.

So there it is, I now commute to work, Yay!
However, this isn't where the story ends. In fact, I am just getting started.

For years, not being a cyclist, I always has the bad experience bias, light jumpers, traffic weavers, lane hoggers. Bloody cyclists! But as I started riding for fun, and spending more time on the roads, I soon realised that there are A LOT of excellent, polite and considerate cyclists out there. Amongst the idiots of course. So now I knew about road cycling, especially in London, right?

WRONG!
It turns out that the time of day I usually ride for fun, is a totally different time of day to the "rush hour". So I thought I would add some observations here.

First up, a small group of commuter cyclists are frickin diabolical! No attention to traffic lights, rights of way, and no respect for other road users. Riding dangerously, and putting other cyclists at risk, with their weaving in and out of traffic, sudden direction changes, and unpredictable actions.

One thing I observed on Jamaica Road the other day, coming onto the roundabout was the utter chaos that occurs when a group of commuter cyclists reach an impasse in the road. Stationary traffic, 3 lanes, and onto the roundabout too. What was the chosen action? SCATTER ! A cluster of 10-15 cyclists, all taking different routes. Any motorist sitting in that would have been overwhelmed as to where to look to check it was safe to proceed. The same scene  can be found at multiple bottlenecks on London's roads. Another is the Old Kent Road, the same thing happens. And I can tell you from a motorists point of view, it is horrible to sit there, looking in all your mirrors, wondering when it will be safe to go.

I guess in some ways you can compare it to the same attitude with motorists. At a certain time of day, it becomes everyone for their own, and no one really cares about the next persons journey. Difference is, do that in a car, hit another and you end up with an insurance claim. Do the same on a bike and it is totally different. Come off on a busy road in the rush hour, and you will do well not to be hit by a motor vehicle. Jostling for position, nudging people out of your way, not giving other cyclists space as you decide to pass them and pull in front of them. These are just a few things I see as a commuter, but less so as a leisure cyclist, unless in a Sportive (then it gets a little tasty).

The thing is, from experience, the difference between a good run to work or home, and a "slow" one, is usually a few minutes at best. Are you really telling me you are willing to die, be injured, or harm someone else for 3 minutes? If so, you are pathetic!
When I see news of cyclists being killed on London's roads, these are the first group of people who spring to my mind. Mindless idiots, willing to jump lights, and skip across a busy, moving junction, because they are more important than anyone else!

The other group are the ones who should really not be on the road. The wanders. Meandering along the roads and pavements, carefree, headphones on, in their own little world. Blissfully unaware of anyone else using the roads, so just rolling out in front of other road users, making no progress whatsoever, and sitting between a lorry and a bus in traffic, completely unaware of their impending doom.

I know not all accidents are the cyclists fault, in fact I am not sure I would ever care to guess which party is usually found responsible for the accidents. But having seen the risks some are willing to take to get past a single vehicle, I am certain there is a percentage which is cyclist fault.
Personally I will not filter between large vehicles unless they are stationary, AND I can clearly see that there is no possibility of them moving in the time it takes me to pass them. In traffic I consider myself courteous towards other road uses.....Unless of course they act like a dick. Take yesterday for an example ... Close call!

There have been a couple of occasions now where I have come close to an accident, which I would consider not my fault (not that that would change my injuries should a collision have occurred).
There is the above incident, where an elderly driver taking a turn into a restricted area, read the wrong traffic signal and pulled across my path, but remained convinced I was in the wrong.
And a few days before in Blackheath where someone pulled onto a roundabout from my left causing me to swerve. After shouting at her, she caught me up, asked me to repeat myself, then refused to apologise (even though she said she had planned to) as she didn't like the tone of my comment. Apparently you are meant to be jovial and happy when someone almost knocks you off your bike.

In the past few week, due to things happening out there, I have made some changes to my bike. Upgrading the brake calipers to Shimano 5800 105, and changing the rear pads to SwissStop. Give me that extra little chance of stopping when the next idiot comes along.

All in all, given that I have previously said that commuting on bike would not be enjoyable, I have really enjoyed it. I love finding different routes to ride to add the miles up, and have to say it is really keeping me on my toes. Not to mention that Strava and Relive are working overtime to produce all my ride data for me. I do love a Relive video.
So I will continue to ride to work, and might even take one of the other bikes at some point to see if I can beat some of my single speed times. Carefully of course.

One other thing, using a single speed daily is a real eye opener, showing you what you can really do without dropping down the gears, if you really put your mind to it. More about that another time though.

Til then, safe cycling people, and communist commuters, calm your arses down!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fuckwits who should not be driving!

OK, I think the title says where this is going, so let me get started. First off, this little picture. Edited to make my rant about today, easier to understand.


So let me explain. This morning I was travelling to work past Lewisham Hospital, in the same direction at this lovely cyclist as shown on Google Maps, in fact, in almost the EXACT same place when it all started.

Where shall we begin. Bottom left of the picture is a turn right lane which filters from the main flow of traffic heading towards Catford. As pointed out by the 4 red arrows, this is an AMBULANCE ONLY entrance. Usually boxy looking vans, yellow in colour, with lots of flashing lights on them, and generally have a sign saying AMBULANCE on them. Glad I got that bit covered!

So, this morning as I rode alone, just like the guy under the three red arrows, I saw a gold Honda Civic pull into the turn right lane. Happy that he had seen me, and was now stationary, I continued to pedal. As I entered the box junction, to my amazement he started pulling forwards. I hit the brakes and swerved hard left, just clearing the front of his car safely. As I passed, I heard him shout something. Now stationary myself from the emergency manoeuvre I decided to go and make enquiries.

Walking into the AMBULANCE ONLY entrance, I found him stopped diagonally across the area, ready to drop someone off. So I walked over and asked what he wanted to say, and ask him why he had just done what he did. To which he replied, "you jumped a red light".

So back to the picture for a moment.
Mid left, you can see traffic lights on green, with a blue arrow pointing at them. To their right, you can see another crossing, which for obvious reasons (being on the other side of the road) you CANNOT see the lights for. Divided by a zig zag island, these crossings are NOT connected sequence wise, they are independent crossings.

When the Civic driver informed me I had jumped a red light, it turns out he was using the crossing on the left as guidance to what the crossing on the right was doing, and decided it was his right of way to enter an ambulance only entrance.
Worrying enough as it is, but then add to it that he felt he was at liberty to run a cyclist over because in his opinion, they had jumped a red light. I wonder if the same attitude would have been taken with a fully loaded dump truck?

The moral of this story is simple.
DON'T assume! As either party, proceed with caution as you can never tell what the other party will do next.
Thankfully, since I started commuting by bike, I have really started to understand the plight of the careful cyclist more. Sod the light jumping, lane hopping, jackasses who make others look bad. But there are some serious dangers out there. Something I will cover soon in another entry.

But for now, I'm still here, the Civic drive is still as obnoxious and convinced as he was earlier, and hasn't learnt a thing from this morning, other than some cyclists are happy to have a polite word (didn't swear once!) when someone behaves like a dick and endangers them.


Link to the actual road so you can see the full layout via Google StreetView
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.453042,-0.0164794,3a,87.5y,10.29h,86.4t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sqb6R1Zc8uvAeN9S2-75qFQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

EDIT

Data from the moment he pulled across me... Nice speed to stop from. Thank heavens for SwissStop !


Monday, March 27, 2017

My cycling goals for 2017

In reality I should have written this a long time ago, but here we are 3 months into the year, and I am only just getting around to it. Probably for the best, given that I have missed over a month in the saddle for one reason or another. Leaving me already 234 miles down on my target for the year.

After last years achievement of a 2000 mile goal, and having taken lots of time off then too, I thought this year would be a good one to push it. So here are a few of my goals for 2017. This is not an exhaustive list, but probably IS exhausting!

Distance goal. 3000 miles
Elevation goal 150,000ft
Single ride goal +100miles
Commute goal average 75 miles per week (single speed)
Commute climb goal, 1000ft single ride (single speed)
Complete 4 Sportives (1 done already Reading)
250 miles in Spain (July)
Ride in a new country

So that is the basics. Obviously I would also like to improve my FTP also during this time. I am planning to re test my FTP in April when I have spent a bit more time in the saddle. Hopefully by the end of the year I will be at least 10% on last years.

EDIT
One plan to get 1000ft elevation in for the commute to work. Fun on a single speed.
https://www.strava.com/routes/8043742

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kallik, mid-week, Week 2

So it has really been a bit of a whirlwind ride over the past week and a half. Getting to know Kallik, monitor his behaviour and interactions with Aana and Tuvaaq, and get an action plan in my head.
At the end of last week it was clear that he is an energetic little thing, and needs to blow off steam before he calms down and walks nicely. That's fine, we have ways and means around that, and today was one of the exercises I had in mind to achieve that.
Once he is drained of energy, training can begin. No point before hand right now.



Last week we realised that Kallik has a dislike for things being placed around his neck. He has got used to the lead now, but the gencon is another matter. But we are getting there. Once it is on him, he walks much better without a shadow of a doubt. Hunters are my preference, easy on, easy off, and greater flexibility and control. The downside, an excited and determine dog coughs and splutters if it pulls too hard. Never nice.

To deal with the energy, and to allow him to play more in the park, but still under control, I bought a 10 metre rope tracking line to let him have some freedom on. When he approaches other dogs, it is gathered in so no tangling occurs. When alone, he can run free (within 10 metres!)

See vid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyXhvGFjtn4


Today was the first time using it, and I have to say I didn't think it all out too well. Entering the park the gencon was removed and put in my pocket. As we got to the green I attached the line to his fixed collar, checked it was nice and secure, then lifted the hunter lead loop over his neck. First mistake, the 10m line was running through the middle of it, which meant each time I let more line out, I had to slide the hunter up the line. Doh!

He had great fun, running around, meeting other dogs and people, and slowly the energy level dropped. Time to do some closer lead work. Bringing him back to me, I slid the hunter all the way back down the line, and put it around his neck, then carefully detached the line from his collar. Gathering the line back up, I looked down and saw the handle of the hunter dragging along the floor behind him!!! S***!
I NEVER take the looped handle of a hunter off my wrist, but because of the earlier tangle, I had! Walking calmly after him, I closed in as he sniffed around a bench, reaching down with relief..... he took off!!
Now you see him.....



Now you don't!!
If you look past the two closest trees, there is a orange / yellow looking frame towards the right, he is just beyond that, with 3 other dogs, and 2 ladies.

He sped off across the park, me more mortified that he might scare someone more than anything, keeping calm I walked in the direction he was heading in. Thankfully, he had been playing with two black labs earlier while I spoke to their owner, so seeing Kallik arriving at their feet, will his lead dragging, even before I called over to them, the wonderful lady calmly reached down, took his lead up and walked back towards me. I am SO thankful, and I don't even know her name. But she is most definitely my favourite person in Mayow Park right now.

Other than that, all is going well, he walked beautifully on the lead all the way home, no gencon needed.



They are absolutely amazing together at home when left alone, and I cannot think of a better match for Tuvaaq and Aana. May the amazing times together last for many years.

In the meantime, I am slightly sore at myself for him getting away. It will NOT happen again!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kallik, the journey. One week on.

So it has officially been a week since he had his first full day at his new home. So I thought it was time for some updates for those interested, and of course some pictures. 

This time last week he went for his first proper walk on his own, and we discovered a few things. First and foremost, that his lead work is terrible, and he really needs some work there. And to add to it, he seemed very uncertain about things being placed over his head and around his neck. This was discovered after a lovely wrestling and biting session.  As for being on the lead, he is a puller, that is for sure. Some of that is the breed, some is lack of experience. The latter we can work with easily. 

Over the past week improvements have certainly been made, as tested and demonstrated this morning on a nice long walk, and visit to the park to socialise a bit more. Early on in the walks he is full of beans, so use of a gencon really helps restrict the pulling, and helps keep him in the right place. Simple device, and stops them choking themselves on a hunter lead. Aana and Tuvaaq have both been trained the same way. By mid walk, the energy levels have dropped and he is starting to calm down. At least to a point which I am happy with, for now. 

Around the house, things have calmed down a lot. Aana is still being a noisy little boss, while Tuvaaq has lost interest in the new kid, and just carries on about his business, unless of course Kallik attacks him playfully in his usual fashion. Sleeping arrangements are about as good as you can ever imagine. Even catching Aana and Kallik snuggled up one evening. Nice to see them so relaxed.

Feeding time is really no different to usual, just another mouth to feed, and another place to find for a dog to eat. They are fed separately to avoid any aggression. It is all over in the blink of an eye, then Aana collects up the bowls to clean them thoroughly.

One thing that has changed is the dynamic of walking time. There is the usual  excitement from Aana when leads appear, which has sadly led to Kallik copying her, that is something to work on. But there is now little to no vocalisation when one dog leaves the house. So clearly Kallik is worthy of being considered a pack member, and no one is left feeling left alone.

All in all things are working really well with him joining the family, and we can now officially say, we are hoping to go ahead with a full adoption in the coming weeks. So looks like at this point, that Kallik has officially found a forever home. By the end of next week, hopefully we can confirm this, and make the arrangements.

He is already VERY popular at the park when we go to socialise, with people making their way over to where we calmly sit, to make a fuss and introduce themselves and their dogs. Comments on his coat colour, questions on his breed, and shock and awe at the fact he is so big and still so young. It is lovely to having him interacting with so many people and dogs. The reason for sitting on a bench and waiting isn't being lazy, but to work on his excitement levels, and to try and reduce his drive to thunder over to other dogs. Letting people and dogs approach without him moving works very well. 

So, I will leave it there for now, but updates will follow for sure. 
So here are the pictures. 

Aana and Kallik having cuddles.

Sleeping in close quarters. Accepted in the pack.

Tummy tickle times.

Meeting new friends at the park.

Getting to know you. Not everyone quite so impressed.

Nice and relaxed. Both of us.

Ann and Kallik having a snuggle.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Adopt a dog. Kallik, the journey.

Losing a pet is never nice, losing a dog even less so. Not that I have personally ever lost a dog to illness or had one PTS. However, having recently seen little Bailey bum deteriorate and slip away, realising that my two, Tuvaaq and Aaanga were getting on a bit, and that the day would come when I will lose one. Then what!
Having grown together, and become my perfect dogs, a little stupid, a bit grumpy, and a whole load of relaxed, I have always wondered what it would be like to start over. Not that I really want to think about losing either of them.

While looking online at rescue centres, to see if there would be a good companion for my sister and her kids after Bailey passed, I noticed Prince. http://alldogsmatter.co.uk/dogs/prince-7/ On All Dogs Matter.. Having only rescued from a Malamute rescue in the past, I must confess I had not heard of ADM until last week. But seeing Prince, an 11 month old Malamute Husky cross, I decided I had to find out more.

After seeing he needed a foster for the time being, and wondering what my two would think of a new addition, I thought what the heck, and got in touch. Being than mine are not very well socialised, and Mals are not known so much for their open arm welcomes to their established packs, it was always going to be interesting. But given my two are getting on, they have chilled, a bit!

After getting in touch, and arranging a visit to ADM at Southend Farm ( https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Southend+Farm/@51.6822663,0.0342225,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47d8a02841b270a7:0xc703f531d47a1623!8m2!3d51.6822663!4d0.0364165 ) we set off on Saturday morning.

Initial introductions went really well, with Aana having a youthful dog to chase and bully again.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BRftxYHDlEn




A good walk, and some time chilling out in the pen, and we decided we would take him home for a trial foster period, with the view to offering him a forever home.
The journey home was the first challenge, would the dogs share THEIR car with a new dog? Well I guess the picture answers that one ... Jordan with Aana happily sitting across her.

Once home, the intro to the house was the main thing, as although things went well, and he was accepted in, it was time to establish a pecking order. Aana has always been the matriarch, and this isn't about to change any time soon. Kallik (the name Prince is known by now) and Aana will have many encounters for a long time yet, but he is learning to deal with them, and getting more comfortable around her.

Trying his luck with all 55kg of Tuvaaq  was always going to be interesting, and after once being very dominantly pinned in the house, they came face to face again in the garden. Resulting in this picture.

To say Kallik was taken aback is an understatement, but he is learning now. No one was harmed in this.

Over the evening we discovered more about his personality and history, but by the end of the night, and after a nice group walk, their first night at home was a quiet and settled one, with everyone finding their own spaces.



https://www.instagram.com/p/BRgyULAjo-f

This morning, Monday, the hard work begun, and some lead training and other bits that need addressing started. So off for a long walk, using a head collar too, we set about getting him sorted on a lead walk. Full of energy, I remember doing the same with Tuvaaq and Aana, so the pulling comes as no surprise at all. However that doesn't make things easier at all. He is a powerful little pup!

Off we went to the park, to socialise a bit, check out behaviour around strangers and other dogs of all shapes, temperaments and sizes. I am pleased to say all went well.

I will leave you with some pictures of the park trip for now, but will be sure to update.

Huge thanks to Ira, Sonia and Simon of www.alldogsmatter.co.uk for allowing all this to be possible.





Thursday, February 16, 2017

#LondonIsOpen (and toxic)

There is no secret that I find the Twitter feed of the current London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, very annoying. Constantly bleating on about things, then falling silent when questions are asked, or the tables turned.

One of the original things that really got on my nerves was the constant tweets stating how there would be less strikes and more negotiations under his watch, cutting the number of transport strikes drastically. Boris had called for them to be almost banned, Sadiq felt that negotiation was the way forward.
For days on end there were almost hourly tweets about his pledge and how there were less strikes. Until of course strike season hit, aka holiday season. Then the shit hit the fan and the strikes begun. On the odd occasion when agreement was reached, they would be cancelled or postponed, and Twitter would hear all about how HE had prevented travel chaos, and was so much better than Boris..

Then the tables turned, and strike after strike has hit various transport networks, and silence from the mayor. The occasional "we are disappointed" tweet, but nothing strong worded, demanding further talks or how out of order it was. Certainly no boasts about his involvement in the talks, in fact the opposite. Avoiding having any involvement at all.

Then there is the demand that TfL have control over Southern Rail. Again, another bandwagon jumped aboard before knowing the full story. Granted Southern is a joke, especially with their strikes also, but their services leave a lot to be desired too. Something needs to be done, but with the shambles that is under his control already, I am not sure that adding another pony to the stables is the right move. Again, we heard so much about "I want to take control" but no comments on the strikes that cripple London each time. Obviously the negotiating skills used with the tube unions don't work, so stay out of it. Wise move!
That said, when Southern rejected the idea of handing over to TfL, they DID say be part of our talks, and help us with your ideas on how it could be improved.
With London's best interests at heart, naturally Mr Khan said NO, I want nothing to do with it, and refuse to be a part of this. Nice one Sadiq!

Then my favourite bit of it all. As you can tell from the blog title.. #LondonIsOpen.
Put on most posts from the mayors office, this seems to be the favourite tag of the moment.
My only thought on it is summed up by this scene from Blades of Glory..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eRRab36XLI

I don't even know what that means
No one knows what it means, but its provocative
No it's not!
Quite simple, words!
Ringing back to the Brexit referendum, when people started somehow saying that the UK was shutting the world out and didn't want to trade with them, the mayors office coined the phrase and tag #LondonIsOpen
Somehow suggesting that the world thought we were closed for some reason. Not once has it ever been suggested that London didn't want to trade with anyone, or that London was somehow closed for refurbishment. Windows painted out, so no one could see what was happening.
Nope, in fact London has never been closed, and in some ways, suggesting it is open creates an air of negativity towards it.

After that was all done with, the tag remained, and is now used on absolutely everything, from business to events etc. Which when promoting an event which has already been arranged is a bit pointless, as the organisers clearly know London Is Open, or they couldn't have booked it ! Duh!

Speaking of events, that is my next and final grip, mixed in with #LondonIsOpen

Recently, along with being open, the mayor has also identified that London is toxic. Very toxic in fact. To the point of issuing warnings suggesting people don't go outdoors unless really necessary at times, and saying how we are failing, and people are dying each year in London BECAUSE of the pollution.
Now I am no neigh sayer here, I know full well that we live in a very busy city, packed with vehicles and other things churning out toxins all day long. I certainly notice the difference when I visit Wales or the Spanish Mountains. But there seems to be some confusion from the mayors office about how bad it really is.

Day after day, Twitter is flooded with comments about how the government need to give people thousands of pounds towards replacing their diesel car. The same diesel car they were given money towards in the last scrappage scheme. The government needs to act on the pollution, taxes levied and increases to the tolls for the congestion zone. Advising how many people die annually because of the air etc.

And then, in the nest breath (a very toxic one of course) we get told about events being held, in Central London, in the open air, and how people should flock to them, because after all #LondonIsOpen.

I have posted a few examples of the contradictions below. And before you say anything, I am all for London hosting events, I love cycling in London, and spending time in town, so have nothing against it. But you can't be the champion of champions for London, aka the mayor, and scaremonger people into believing we are living in a city which has toxic smog daily, air quality warnings and sirens, and environmental wardens walking around in high vis uniforms so they can be seen through the smog.
THEN expect your same audience on Twitter to flock to events you are promoting. That's just dumb. Get a story and stick to it.

Smog and toxic
https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/831929385741668377

https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/830718056959709185

https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/830367140733714432
London’s dirty air is a public health crisis. I’m committed to tackling this. Read more about my plans here:
Older people & adults & children with lung or heart problems should avoid strenuous physical exercise, particularly outdoors.

Meanwhile... Positives
https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/832198886102093825
On 26 Feb we're turning Trafalgar Square into London's biggest cinema for a very special Oscar-night screening of << There it is!!

https://twitter.com/TfL/status/831862211303845888

https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/831823169858203650

So... #LondonIsOpen AND #LondonIsToxic

In short, I guess what I am trying to put across in this entry is quite simple.

Stop talking shit Sadiq. Do what is right for London and its people, stop scaring people with over exaggerated stories, and then contradicting yourself by saying we need to bring people to London for events, tourism etc. Don't you see that by bleating on about air quality, you scare people away, not bring them here. Its the exact same media channel and audience that you speak through and to, but somehow you expect them to be positive.

London IS open, London is proud. It is a diverse yet united city who has been and still is respected globally by millions of potential tourists. Walk in the streets in town and you will see just how open London is, without having to use a damn hashtag and believe it spreads a message of positivity. It really doesn't. London is not a convenience store which has an Open/Closed sign. It is a city right up there on the world stage, historic, respected, and a magnet to people around the world. Stop pretending that YOU are single handedly  making the difference, you really aren't.

#RantOver



Friday, February 3, 2017

Preservation vs housing targets.

I head a lot these days about political pledges to build X amount of house by a certain date. How there is a housing crisis, we need more homes, more affordable homes etc. But at the same time I read everyday about the outrage over planned developments in preservation, conservation, and other sorts of land and properties.

There is a slight issue here, especially when in some cases it is the same people bleating on about needing more housing, who are chaining themselves to railings outside properties and pieces of land that they feel should be protected. Usually because 200 years ago a King stayed there overnight (apparently), or that the views are of outstanding beauty.

Now sure we all have different opinions on these things, and one mans beauty is another mans eyesore. However most will agree that falsely pushing up the prices of available housing, because everyone is bickering about if a piece of land should or should not have apartments built on it is not helping anyone.

Private money seems to speak loudest. You only have to take a drive along the now dark and overhung Nine Elms Lane in Battersea to realise that if the money is there, planning kinda goes out of the window, and the demand for expensive housing is met in a flash. Usually because people in these walks of life are willing to look the other way for the right sum of money.

Don't get me wrong, I think what is happening in Battersea is stunning, some amazing buildings going up. But the Thames has disappeared from view from the streets, and apartments in the new developments are going in droves for £8m , yes EIGHT MILLION POUNDS !
Just have a look on www.rightmove.co.uk and search Nine Elms Lane, it is shocking.

Anyway, back to smaller stuff. Years ago a long strip of properties were bought up under a CPO by the Tories, to widen and free up the flow of the traffic along the Westway. Labour took power and scrapped it, but not before all the houses had been flattened.
Today, over a decade later, most of it just sits there, empty land, doing nothing. Why is it not being built on.
20+ years ago two houses on my street were demolished with the intention of rebuilding. It never happened. 20 years later, the empty, overgrown plot just sits there, doing nothing. I don't get it. Sure you can't demand someone builds on their empty land. But surely after X time some sort of compulsory purchase can be set in place, to at least encourage some movement by the owner. There are plots like this all over the place, some probably with no one sure who owns them anymore. I can't believe for one minute during the last housing booms we have had, that someone would not sell such a plot to a developer.

Then there is preservation and conservation. Something I don't get sometimes. Sure there are buildings of significance, and historic importance. There are pieces of groundbreaking architectural design, one of a kind or first of their kind that need preserving to maintain that chain of history and development.
But protecting something just because it was built by someone who was once locally relevant, and no one outside the tight knit world of historic architecture would know.... Is it really important we protect every piece of that persons work, especially when they fall into disrepair, or have changed so much that they are no longer period relevant?

Should such a property stand in the way of redevelopment, in which 3 times as many places to live could be created on the same footprint? Where somewhere that can be bought and demolished to provide affordable local housing, is protected because someone  locally relevant built the house?

Recently a small group of properties in W1 were demolished. On a little known road called Park Crescent. I am of course being sarcastic. The properties in mind were / are of huge significance, and have stood as a landmark in their own right for decades. Designed by the same architect as Buckingham Palace, the tall white facades, and columned exterior stood boldly in London's historic architecture. However after interest in knocking it all down was raised, it was decided that during the war the buildings had been damaged and not repaired to the correct period standard. Therefore the OK was given to sell them for £103m and flatten them. The plan is to build them to a more period correct standard.

So you can take a building which is 60% original, repair it not to quite the original standard, but to a standard to which no one will complain for 60+ years, but when the money shows up, it becomes substandard, and rebuilding the whole thing would be MORE period correct?

I guess what I am trying to say all along here is, there is a housing shortage, there are PC people who on one hand stand in the way of sensible, small local projects to increase housing on an incremental scale, opening opportunities slowly and steadily. But at the same time, other groups with apparently the same considerations will open up the flood gates for massive, unaffordable housing explosions.
I don't get it.

Sure open spaces are nice, clean air etc. Historic buildings need to be preserved. But HISTORIC buildings, not ones which have little bearing on the future, and teach us nothing about the past. I know I sound like a miserable old sod, but I am just sick of seeing things caught up in an over complicated, unnecessarily painful and time consuming process, only to be blocked sometimes by what I can only describe as people who have an air of self importance about them. I completely appreciate that some applications are blocked. God only knows what our streets would be full of if anyone could just build anything.

But when you take a look at the inconsistencies of things, and how modern regularly clashes with historic, but then other times something fitting is blocked because we have grown used to an open space, and the new plan is too high. Demands for certain more expensive materials to be used, making a plan prohibitively expensive, so the plan is cancelled. A certain roof tile,  window frames of set materials, even how a garden should appear. I don't get it. Why small groups of people get such a say.

Something has to give, something needs to get the land and property prices under control so developers can get on with making new homes which the average person in London can even dream of affording, because right now, just thinking about the repayments on a mortgage to buy a 2 bed flat on the 11th floor with no lift, is more a nightmare than a dream.

I don't have the answers, I'm not sure anyone does right now. But I am sick of hearing the line "affordable housing" when it is completely unrealistic. The Mayor of London blowing his own trumpet about achieving goals in all walks of life. But right now, none of them matter if people can't afford to live in the damn city in the first place.

Rant over.

Build some bloody houses, and stop whining about pointless shit!