Since 8th January I stuck to my recovery expectation. My Consultant said based upon my positive attitude and drive, that I do not smoke, drink in moderation and infrequently, my exercise of gardening and fell walking preferably between 10 and 18 miles, he was confident I would be back to normal by 1st May 2017. That was my target, before the 1st May. When I saw him on 29th December 2016 to officially discharge me and commence the UK NHS 5 year cancer monitoring programme for me, by then I had done two weeks of minimal exercise followed with 4 weeks of moving about but not exerting myself, basically walking around the house. Certainly no fell walking or my serious DIY. From January I was told to start building my fitness back gradually. I started by doing 0.1 mile moving rapidly to 0.25 mile. I would do this 3 or 4 times a day for a week slowly increasing my distance. Where we live we have good land marks at varying miles so setting a target in this routine was quite easy knowing that I could as and when increase the mileage to the next land mark. All on tarmac roads and hard surfaces, I was not to go on rough ground or fell walk until at least May. By the beginning of March I was doing 14 miles on roads, including inclines at least 3 times a week and each day a minimum of 8. From early March averaging 60 to 70 miles a week was being recorded. No DIY was done, I simply read, attended meetings, my voluntary work but walked. Even our dog of 11 years with arthritis and stiffness in his legs, especially the back legs benefited greatly. If I went, he went. Prior to my operation we thought his days were numbered, struggling to sit down, doing a 12 miler once a week made no difference but by the end of March, sitting down and stairs were not a problem. He looked better! He is better with the exercising obviously easing the arthritis.
On 29th March I saw the Consultant again. The first of 4 quarterly checks in year one, 6 monthly in year 2 and yearly in years 3 to 5. He was very pleased, more than pleased with my recovery saying he knows fit people who could not do 14 miles. I told him I am desperate for a proper fell walk and his reply was, do it, just back off the moment you feel anything not right, anything.
I was back gardening as in previous years, and since my wife retired, tending to 15 clients over 6 days in a 28 day period. In January 2017 I attended 2 meetings in connection with our National Trust Volunteering roles and their season started 12th February. Without looking back I am sure I have mentioned our volunteering roles at the National Trust in blogs last year. This year was different. The Hall had a few problems a few years ago and the new management were getting things moving again increasing the days open. in 2017 a new day for opening was to be and I put my name forward to be considered for Day Coordinator. This role coordinates the teams attendance for the day, making sure rooms were covered by volunteers and coordinating lunch covers for those there all day. With this being a new day we had no team but by the start of the season with a recruitment drive we had a team, gaining one or two more as the season went on. Four volunteers who had worked with me last year when we did two alternate days each week came and joined me. I attended the volunteer enquiry day in late January. As last year at the National Trust, and as I say frequently in these blogs, I was skirted and in clothing as seen in the photos on my web site. www.theskirtedman.co.uk I was skirted at the volunteer enquiry day and know one was forewarned - why should they - and I had no problems securing volunteers even though the drive was for a 4 days currently open! I gained the largest share of new volunteers from that event and by the end of March I can field when I have a full attendance of 9 in the morning and 9 in the afternoon. The man in a skirt, the same as women in male style clothing was not having any negative effect. The team are very supportive of me and extremely loyal to the team and proactive. Yes I have had about 5 visitors so far this year who have made it known to me of their disapproval but the vast majority interact with me with no issue. If a visitor asks about me to a team member they talk positively of me and why. The Halls visitor numbers are rapidly increasing over the last two years and so far this year 99% ahead of managements budget figures and before any readers think its due to me, a visitor attraction, it isn't, the numbers are up across the the 4 days and our day is consistently the 3rd best performing day out of the 4, not top and therefore not way above the other 3 days. Therefore the sight of a man in a skirt does not move visitors and can indicate it is not an issue to the vast majority, just a very small minority.
The push and promoting of men in skirts in the real world continues.
It didn't finish there. By pure fluke, I was at home on Friday 23rd March. It was a very wet day and very unusual for me at 9 am I went on Twitter. It was the week the Exeter School boys were going viral on social media in protest to school policy that boys were only allowed long trousers not shorts when girls could wear trousers or skirts. Being told no by their headteacher, 30 students went to school in school uniform skirts. Search the net, if you had not heard. I stayed away from reactions to their protest as they were only using skirts as a means to their ends but the discussion widened to men generally and male office workers and I did join in many tweets and other areas of debate in the run up to the 23rd June. On the morning of the 23rd it was still reverberating the internet with a tweet coming my way from BBC Radio York that at 9 they were to discuss this subject. I sent them a reply. I have done this to both National BBC and ITV on earlier discussions over them months and years and get zero response but not this time. Replying to tweets under my search men in skirts, man in a skirt, and checking replies I had posted on independent articles the two days prior, I did not realise that BBC Radio York had tweeted me back, sent an email via my web site asking for me to partake in the discussion, live on air. It was 10 am before I realised and the discussion time had gone but I called them and I was interviewed by the programmes researcher and at 11.40 I had a 10 minute slot talking about myself and men in skirts. There is an audio link to it on my web site or go direct by clicking here. Another opportunity taken to push men in skirts as being no different to women in trousers. Sadly it didn't go any further but the researcher thanked me afterwards and said I had certainly opened a few eyes to the subject and not just at the radio station. The show presenter sent me a Direct Message via Twitter thanking me and also said the experience had been very enlightening for many.
My wife and I have been out and about a lot over these last 7 months. We still partake in two music societies, one winter, one summer, on a monthly basis, attending a third making it twice on many months. We have been to plays at theaters and to hear speakers like Sir Rannulph Fiennes and Drummers called Yamato Drummers. You would think 5 minutes of drumming and you've heard them. 2 hours later you wanted them to continue. Not had much opportunity for folk music but have booked 6 folk concerts for later in the year. Had 5 days down in York staying at a hotel in York and not a single pair of trousers were in my suitcase.
My wife and I alternate the two walking groups as they walk on the same days. The other club walks twice a week but that clashes with our National Trust volunteering. We walk adhoc with a few privately from the club we have been in for the last two years, and walk privately just the two of us as and when we can. We aim to be out at least twice a week but with two dogs our daily walking over two walk periods is between 3 and 8 miles. 8 miles takes us one and half hours. No stiles, gates etc. Good open countryside. We have walked in the Lakes a good 9 times this this year since April, North Pennines have been visited as well North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales. We have this year got to know a couple, yes I was skirted when we first met, that has developed into a friendship and have had two walks with them. I have worn skirts walking just with myself and and Mary at least 4 times in the Lakes District and quite often from home, which does give us access to open and hilly countryside. There are two photos of me walking in a skirt this year on my web site. We have had meals out from time to time, pubs, restaurants. As my Doctor said to me last October when I queried the illness, the reply was "welcome to life's wrong end of the stick. You are beyond 50 and anything can happen to anyone. It is life style, fitness and attitude that helps recovery". We now put more emphasis on enjoyment than before but not forgetting you get out of life what you put into it, so it is and cannot be all enjoyment, but now we can choose the hassle, "politics", and the levels of it.
Since my illness we have readjusted our life. We will walk away from anything that gives us hassle. We are retired, the 6 days garden is activity, pin money and being paid to go to the gym. We are not on a huge bucket list drive or expensive pursuits, we are happy with the life style of concerts, theatre, walking, volunteering and short breaks. We are giving that the priority, yes day to day jobs come in, but the DIY is now at a stage it is November to March based, when gardens close down and walking is curtailed due to short days and weather.
But I still push men in skirts though. I left Twitter dormant for all of 2016 and early 2017 but started back on it over these last few months, as two keeping an eye on any blogs where responses are allowed. I tend not to register on many as they can be one offs, but some allow an open comment or via a generic login like Disqus.
All I can say to any would be men in skirts, just go out and do it. I have recently had a few tweets from a man who wears kilts, but would like to wear skirts and dresses and hopes for the trouser tyranny to go. He has told me he will stick with kilts, that is a small step, skirts in public is one to big for him. Over these last few months my wife and I have seen a man in a tartan skirt on several occasions in a town not far from us. My wife says it is definitely not a kilt. However, when ever we see him it is never possible to make contact. We are in a moving car with the circumstances making no possibility to stop without causing a lot of horn blowing and irritated drivers. Perhaps one day I will be able to say "hi" from a fellow skirt wearing man.