It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog – and in the meantime life has been rolling along at a rather sedate pace.
If I’m honest I’d prefer it to be a lot quicker – and the truth of the matter is that I’d prefer to be experiencing it whilst being gainfully employed – but that’s sadly still not the case at the moment.
In the absence of a job materialising I’ve been trying to make myself useful – and (rather out of character) have been engaging in some DIY.
In a similar way to how I used to tell myself that I hated exercise and couldn’t understand why people engaged in it (joggers are crazy right? I mean who RUNS voluntarily unless they’re about to miss a bus?) I still regularly tell myself that I dislike decorating or using power tools.
What I am actually saying in both cases is really ‘I am scared of looking silly and of making mistakes.’
The truth is that in exactly the same way that I never used to be able to swim with my head under the water or do any kind of exercise without drowning in perspiration I am woefully inexperienced when it comes to making or mending things with my hands.
To illustrate this further I’ve had a dripping tap in the bathroom for four years now because I’m terrified of changing the washer.
So – no one could have been more surprised than me when the closure of my local Homebase (and its subsequent stock clearance) catalysed me into action and I started buying (AND USING) items to improve my home.
Specifically my loft.
Although I bought and paid for this area of my house along with all the rest in 2007 (and it represents around 1/5ths of the total available space in my property) for over 12 years I’d never used it or even climbed up into it to have a look around.
Physically of course this used to be impossible.
First of all aluminium or wooden ladders typically only support up to 23st of body weight – and since I was 35st not only would it be dangerous for me to stand on them at height but I was completely incapable of doing so.
This was relatively immaterial however – because even if some temporary miracle of reversed gravity had propelled me up a pair my loft hatch above them would have been too small for me to get anything more than my head and shoulders through.
When my weight dropped I became a tiny bit more intrepid and ventured slightly closer to the rafters above my bedroom.
I purchased some sturdy stepladders, lifted the mysterious hatch, poked my head through and tentatively pushed some random planks up there next to the opening.
This enabled me to initially store one or two light boxes of cables and computer stuff.
Soon though I felt that I needed to put some more things up there so I pushed up a few extra bits of random wood I had lying around in my shed and slid a few boxes of paperwork in on top of them.
Everything up to that point was just within reach of the loft hatch, but soon after a few seasonal items like my Christmas tree and fans followed and things began to change.
It didn’t take long before I had begun to forget what I’d put up there – and since most of it had become quickly obscured from view (there was no light in the loft) I lost track of where things were.
Then – in the closing Homebase I saw these
The roofing section was labelled as 25% off – and try as I might I couldn’t find a pack of these boards cheaper online or anywhere in bulk or the same pack size.
It seemed like a bargain that was too good to pass up.
I guesstimated that 10 packs (30 boards) would probably be overkill – but that if I bought them I’d be compelled to use them and have enough to make mistakes too.
I piled them up on a flatbed trolly and went hunting for some decking screws.
However when I got everything through the checkout and home (along with several other purchases of wood, a long saw and linoleum for other jobs that needed doing) I realised that the boards would need to be cut with a circular saw if they were to fit the joists (and into eachother) successfully.
Now – this is where the panic set in because I hate using power tools.
They really scare me – and not because I’m inept or inherently clumsy but because I have no experience of using them.
No one has ever been around in my life to show me the best way to do such things and as such there’s no small level of worry associated with drilling holes, sanding things or (god forbid) cutting through stuff with motorised blades.
So I watched a few YouTube videos about how to do everything, nipped to Argos to buy what seemed like an appropriate instrument and dusted off my (unsurprisingly pristine) black and decker workmate.
The truth is that cutting wood with power tools is actually scarily simple and also rather fun!
The circular saw goes through high density chipboard like a warm knife through butter – and with some appropriate glasses and earplugs it didn’t feel like it was going to do me an injury or reduce my available digits.
I was on my way – and with my trusty partner in crime standing behind me as I made my first few cuts as well as holding the ladders when I dragged them upstairs (and occasionally pinching my ass when I had my head in the loft) I climbed up through the hatch and started to screw my trimmed boards into place.
I soon realised that ten packs of boards weren’t even close to the number I needed to do the entire loft.
My loft is split into two halves – with a big supporting beam in the middle that oddly stops half way along.
It has a total of 13 rafters end to end and on the side where the loft hatch is needs six planks per span (excluding the closed off eaves and odd places were there would be small bits of boards needed) meaning I required at least another two – three packs.
Even if I didn’t board the other half and worked around all of the random ‘sticky uppy’ bits of wood, pipes and cables that seemed to be up there under the insulation I’d need almost twice as much.
I decided in that case that I’d be sensible. I’d do only half of the loft rather than the whole thing.
After all – why go nuts? This was already way more than I felt that I was capable of.
On the other side behind the beam were the pipes from my boiler to my shower and these sat above the rafters.
I didn’t want to disturb or damage them and it terrified me that I might fall through between the rafters.
The boarded half that I felt comfortable with would be more than enough to store things and would represent a significant step in the right direction.
As the boards went in though bit by bit my confidence grew and I realised that I was rather enjoying myself!
When I embarked upon this I’d waited until the weekend to begin.
Truthfully I needed my partner around to help boost my confidence and tell me I was doing ok.
This was without a doubt the tipping point between me not doing anything and not starting and making a shaky start.
However as I progressed I quickly realised that I was more than fit and nimble enough to cut, carry, lift, nail, screw and saw things in the confined (and dangerous) spaces where I needed to bend double, and crouch or kneel on slender rafters with heavy weights.
Honestly – this was all something of a revelation.
I was doing it! I was actually boarding a loft!!!
After the first day on the job I ached all over though.
My back hurt, my hands were frozen into claws from screwing screws into wood and my thigh, calf muscles and knees were screaming with indignation about being forced to crouch and bend for so long.
The second and third days I had to take things a bit more slowly and (as I was now alone all day long) made sure I was being very careful.
Then – almost as soon as I’d begun – I had reached all the way along to the wall.
I celebrated by buying a telescopic loft ladder so that I could make sure that not only I but the infinitely foxier other occupant of my house could get up there if she needed to.
There are actually few things that feel as satisfying as working all day long, then having someone come home to see you – then for them to look both pleasantly surprised at what you’ve achieved and beam with pride at your accomplishments.
The thing that was bugging me though was what to do about the pipes on the opposite side.
Although half a loft was more than enough to pile all of our collected things that weren’t needed day to day – the fact was that to get to them when we needed to would be problematic at best if our things were all stacked on top of eachother.
What was really needed was a larger space where everything was ordered and visible so that the loft wasn’t just a complete dumping ground.
I wanted it instead to be a place where things lived temporarily or were disposed of if we decided we didn’t use them any more.
That wouldn’t happen if everything was just piled up willy nilly in giant heaps.
So I decided that the other half had to be tackled as well.
The important thing was though that the pipes needed to be accessible in an emergency with a minimum of fuss and unscrewing.
The only way this would happen it seemed (after some further research and watching of yet more YouTube videos) was to use some form of loft leg to raise the boards higher up and create a platform where things could be stored above the pipes.
These would raise the floor by 175mm – but at a cost in terms of extra effort and money because they are £14 a box (before discounts) for 12.
Up to this point I’d screwed the boards to the rafters – but if I used legs I’d have to not only cut the wood even more precisely to fit on tiny little raised anchor points but secure each of the legs to the rafters with four screws.
To add insult to injury the holes in the bases of the legs were not pre-drilled.
This meant that each leg had to have four screws forced in by hand prior to being screwed into the beams.
I calculated that I needed five boxes (60 loft legs) meaning this would have to be done 240 times.
I’d already moved away from screwing the boards in by hand and gotten over my fear of using a power drill (fatigue is a great motivator) but this was still going to make the second half of the task immensely harder and longer than the first.
The only way to do it though was make a start – and so I did. Soon the first set of legs were in place and I began to tentatively place the newly cut boards on top.
All of this ‘pre screwing’ was taking a serious toll on my hands though – and after stabbing myself in the left palm with a screwdriver and almost popping a blister that was swiftly forming on my right palm I decided that the rather swanky Kath Kidson gardening gloves that materialised in my house around the same time my beloved arrived rather suited me.
Soon my flowery little begloved hands had produced a veritable production line of pre screwed legs – and although the task at hand got no less arduous with time as I plodded on it did become a little quicker.
Since I needed five per joist I prepared them by hand in batches of ten and then screwed them in with my power drill.
After around a week of climbing in and out of the loft, cutting planks in the garden, trimming joists and planks in my roof, disposing of junk I found hidden in the eaves (I’m looking at you random poster of Elvis) I’d actually managed to board out the whole FRIKKIN roof!!!!!
This meant that (at least in my mind) I’d fulfilled a promise to my partner that I’d made when she moved in with me.
This was that everything (with the exception of some larger furniture) she wanted to keep from her flat after the move could not only be kept but would be available and close to hand at a moments notice if it was needed.
I wanted nothing she owned to be hidden away and inaccessible – but if it wasn’t frequently needed it could be stored and safe – ready for when it was.
Of course – the same is now true of all of my belongings too – and once again I’ve proven that even though my default starting point may be self doubt I am capable of doing a lot more than I give myself credit for.
To say that I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished (even though I could have done a better job in some places now that Ive gone back and looked at all the little mistakes I made) is a vast understatement.
I’ve reclaimed one fifth of my house and in the process created an easily accessible and almost inviting space for both of us.
It’s so cosy that I actually fell asleep up there one afternoon on my beanbag while taking a break!
Maybe once again my theory about the universe listening was proven to be true because although I was chuffed beyond words with my DIY I wasn’t feeling quite so happy with my adherence to healthy eating principles.
Elsewhere a wake up call was working its way to fruition.
I think that it’s safe to say that for around two months I’ve been struggling to keep a lid on my appetite as well as not using a dip in my mood (related pretty much solely to my employment status) as an excuse to overeat.
I’ve frankly failed more than I’ve succeeded in this respect and this is always noticeable in the shirt department. Things are tugging around the waist – and I need to get back to ‘Davey’s happy waistline place’.
I decided on Saturday morning that I was going to do two things.
Firstly I was going to once again focus on #onplanoctober (where I commit to writing down everything I eat) and secondly that I was not going to look at any numbers on any scales until I absolutely needed to weigh in again as a target member.
I have been nailing myself into the floor with numbers on scales and whether they mean I’m a failure or a success.
It’s stupid and I’m sick of it.
If I fit my clothes and my waistband is loose then I know if I’m on track.
Half a pound here or there doesn’t make me a success or a failure and it’s about damn time I accepted that and instead started focusing on living a guilt free life that contains no continual self condemnation.
With this in mind I made an effort and dressed up smartly for Angie’s Slimming World 50th birthday party celebration on Saturday morning.
The theme was black and gold – and it was a great excuse to deploy a jacket that I bought a year ago but never found a reason to wear.
As always the 10.30 group was lively and friendly. All of the food tasting sessions usually are – but this week Angie has made an extra special effort with the decorations.
Before leaving in the morning I’d quickly made two big Tupperware boxes full of sweet potato and potato wedges (with garlic, rock salt and paprika) but everyone else had made some smashing recipies.
Of particular note were a weetabix loaf and some cheese and quinoa bites – both of which I secured the recipes for because they were ace!
One of the things I rather like these days is that I can kind of melt into the background at these groups and just be a member again rather than an inspiration.
I know it’s all in my own head and that no-one but me has an expectation that I have to be perfect or that I am not allowed to fail – but it’s never been any less than hard work for me to go to a Slimming World group when I feel like I’ve been letting not only myself down but everyone else that’s ever seen me in the magazine and in newspapers.
As great as this photo of me at the Ritz when I won the MOTY title last year makes me feel it also represents something of a pinnacle that often I feel I can only fall down from.
I looked and felt awesome on that day even though I was stressed and sleep deprived. I was on the top of my own metaphorical mountain – having climbed higher than I’d ever thought possible.
The thing about mountains though is that when you reach the summit eventually you have to make your way back down to carry on with real life – and make sense of what it all means.
My life has since taken other turns thankfully and in every measurable sense (other than my waistline and my job hunting) I’m in a happier and more secure place now than I think I’ve ever been in my entire life.
Slimming World will always be a part of my life and remain very important to me but it’s no longer my sole focus. Learning to live with different priorities whilst not going completely off the rails has become the next major challenge I am still trying to rise to.
Imagine my surprise then when I found out that an award I made for myself many many months ago (if it doesn’t exist you have to create it) had finally became a reality.
Angie called me out in group and when I was up front with her she gave me a golden envelope!
All of a sudden I was rather glad I’d made an effort to look smart!
Inside it was a £50 voucher and FINALLY an OFFICIAL award for losing over 50% of my body weight!!!
There really are no words.
The universe does indeed seem to be listening.
When I feel low and think that I can’t do things or that I’m not good enough then something comes along to remind me that I did and can.
More than anything else it also reminds me that I can’t do things totally on my own.
Just like I needed someone to hold my ladders to begin with as I started the loft I can’t bang my dietary head against a solitary brick wall and fix everything myself.
I’m stronger when I have the support of others and I’m happier when I’m surrounded by people because it brings out the best in me.
So – I’ve got five weeks left to get ready for the Slimming World ball.
I’m going to try and use all of them wisely and make sure that when (for the final time) I present myself to the great and good in the assembled crowds of consultants and their partners I feel both upbeat and positive.
Regardless of what happens though I’m sure I will be – because I will be hand in hand with my rock.
I aim to make absolutely sure that when the last dance finishes in November that we’re the last ones still swaying back and forth together next to the stage.
The last kiss of the night will be mine.
I may struggle to see what my place in the world is sometimes – and I’ve never ever looked forward to any sort of planed future before – but now I do.
I may not know what it holds but I know who I want in it.
Life and lofts eh?
All you can do is your best and hope that the universe listens and that everything works out in the end!