New blogging gig and a commitment to cycling

So I’m now also going to be blogging over on the Broken Spoke website.

Here’s my first post for them, about the time those nasty people stole the wheels off my bike.

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What is a bicycle? A frame and a pair of wheels? A method of getting from point A to point B?

To me, a bicycle is freedom. Freedom that I’d taken for granted until one day a couple of months ago when I returned home from a weekend away to see only part of my bike locked to the lamp post where I had left it. Thieves had taken both my wheels, leaving a sad looking slightly rusted frame.

The bike wasn’t worth much. It was Halford’s cheapest option, eight years ago when I first started at university and didn’t know anything about cycling (or life). In fact, I still don’t know anything much about bicycle maintenance. My eight year old bike had been severely neglected, left out in the rain, never oiled and barely washed. My housemate concluded that buying replacement wheels would cost more that the whole thing was worth, so I unlocked the frame (which disappeared about two hours later).

The following week was one of frustration. Frustration at waiting for the bus that should have arrived ten minutes ago, frustration at the walk home that was taking so long, frustration at having to carry heavy shopping bags that would otherwise have been in a basket. I felt so held back by the extra time it took to get places and by being at the mercy of the Oxford Bus Company.

Now I’m back in the saddle, and it’s incredible. Right the first ride on my new bike when I’d felt the wind against my face. I was moving so fast!

I vowed never to take cycling for granted again. This time, I’m going to learn to look after my bike properly, keep it safe, and use it more than ever. Like Carlene Thomas-Bailey I can barely identify a pump. But with the help of Broken Spoke, I’m going to become an expert. Watch this space.

I wear short shorts

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I have basically spent every weekend this summer wearing this pair of shorts. I love them and I love how I look in them.

They haven’t always been shorts. They were once a pair of jeans that I cut off when I got bored of them. My Mum suggested I’d cut them too short. I probably rolled my eyes at her.

Once upon a time I used to be self-conscious about wearing short shorts. As you can see, I have quite big thighs and a fair bit of cellulite. But I love my legs. Why? Because they mean I can WALK and RUN and CYCLE and DANCE and a whole load of other things that I am so grateful for. And the more I wear shorts, the more I like how my legs look in shorts.

Other women, including those with much thinner or more muscular thighs than me, have told me how lucky I am to be able to go out wearing shorts. Everyone can wear shorts. Like those widely shared instructions on how to have a bikini body (have a bode, put a bikini on it), my guide to wearing shorts are basically to just fucking wear the shorts. Yes, the first time (and maybe the next) requires some bravery. But it soon feels normal.

And today? I’m wearing shorts when I haven’t even shaved my legs in several weeks. Shocker.

This is how well my half marathon training is going

These are things I’ve done this week:

  • Discovered where my nearest Hobbycraft store is.
  • Played about with beads and pins and polystyrene balls.
  • Watched Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Bought a new bike.
  • Bought a superior bike lock.
  • Learnt how to play Werewolves.
  • Picked a new housemate.
  • Become the owner of a pair of skinny jeans that don’t have an elasticated waistband.
  • Made a bake-off inspired cardamom, coffee and pistachio swiss roll with my friends.
  • Learnt that it’s cardamom and not cardamon.
  • Crocheted a lot.
  • Discovered that blush wine is a thing.
  • Learnt that I like blush wine.

 

These are the things I haven’t done this week:

  • Gone for a run.

On not making plans, impromptu whisky sours and bathroom dining.

Last week I asked my sister what she was most looking forward to doing when she moved into her new house. She answered straight away: “Eating dinner in the bath.”

Her words came back to me today and made me smile, partly because of the absurdity of her answer and partly because of what it represented. Having dinner in the bath is really living life on your own terms: doing something other people think is crazy just because you want to.

This week I had lots of things that I thought I should do. It was supposed to be a quiet one, time to catch up on sleep, do my laundry, clean, tidy, write and reflect. But as soon as I arrived back in Oxford on Sunday night I received a text message: do you want to go for shisha? Which of course turned into shisha and wine and a late night.

On Monday night I ended up having a pub dinner and conversations that lasted until it got dark. On Wednesday night a throwaway remark by a friend – “I haven’t had a whisky sour in ages” – saw us camped out in a cocktail bar for most of the night. I returned home and collapsed on my bed. “Oh shit,” I thought as the room span around me. “I needed to do that laundry.” But it turned out I didn’t, because I wore a running bra under my work clothes today and nothing bad happened.

I have a nasty habit of trying to schedule every moment of my life in advance. I plan, I make lists, and I turn down fun to cross things off them.

This week has shown me that I can relax a little: not plan anything, not set expectations. Wonderful things can happen when you leave space for a little spontaneity. You’ll still do the things that matter (that laundry is in the washing machine as I type) but there’s a lot of things that don’t.

I’ll get more sleep when my friends aren’t in town. I’ll write when I feel inspired, not when I feel I ought to. This might lead to more infrequent blog posts but they will be the ones worth reading. Or it might not, because you don’t know what will happen when you leave space. It is okay to do whatever the hell you want to do in the moment, even it that’s eating dinner in the bath.

Ordinary magic

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You don’t have to do something extraordinary for it to be wonderful. There is magic in everyday things: a story, fresh flowers, a smile.

This week I’m remembering that I don’t have to quit everything and go travelling to have a great life. Happiness is much more about perspective than circumstance.

I’m back! And these are some things I’ve done, and learnt from, in the meantime.

One of my housemates volunteers with a community theatre group. They needed help painting some of the set so I gave up a morning to help. I’d genuinely forgotten how calming I find it when I am absorbed my something creative for a few hours. I drew and painted this board of cogs, and felt so much happier because of it.

I went to Henley Regatta and got to wear a hat (I didn’t actually wear it with that checked shirt). I fitted in much more than I thought I would, which will teach me for being such a reverse snob.

At Cowley Road Carnival we chose mask making in the family craft area rather than daytime drinking in front of the stages. Had much more fun.

I moved rooms in my house. I now have a sofa! And room to spread out all the blankets I crochet.

My bike wheels were stolen. Bastards. But now that it’s my main method of transport, I was toying with the idea of using the money I made my selling my car to invest in a good bike. I guess that decision has now been made for me.

I’m back! And things will be a little different around here.

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One of the things I daydream about is being a lifestyle blogger: with regular posts, more photographs, more writing about my life and so on. The limiting belief that’s been holding me back is “nobody is interested in my life.” But as one of my friend’s pointed out, some people do in fact read lifestyle blogs. More importantly, if this is something I want to do then I should do it regardless of whether people are reading or not. But obviously, it would be great if you did.

I’m going to cease being self-conscious and self-censoring, stop taking myself too seriously, and start sharing more of my life with you. There’s going to be:

1. More crochet! And other crafty stuff.

2. Outfits!

3. More life musings!

4. Food!

5. Plus anything else that gets me excited.

Hold on to your hats folks…