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.

d4d99-2014-07-232020-32-07

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.

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.

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.

kate

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…

What being ALIVE means to me

This post is part of the ALIVE in Berlin Blog Tour, which is spreading the power of ALIVENESS to the masses. Alive in Berlin is a global gathering devoted to personal transformation that takes place on the 30th and 31st of May 2014 in Europe’s most exciting cityThe event will bring together world-class experts, visionaries and change makers from a variety of communities and disciplines. Together, we’ll explore the common threads that connect us and make us come alive. To learn more and join us, click here.

If you’d asked me what makes me come alive a few days ago I would have said something different to what I’m about to say now. In the middle of a hectic week of parties, gigs and lunches with old friends I would have said: “Inspiring people, amazing music and great wine.” These things will still sometimes make me feel at the top of the world, but after a solid six days of them you can start to feel the opposite of alive. Today, I feel alive again because of ten hours sleep, a five mile run and all day by myself to think and to write.

So, to recap, what being alive means to me is: partying all night but getting loads of sleep, being around great people but spending time by myself, indulging in rich food and alcohol but eating light meals and running a lot.

Yes, you heard that right. What being alive means to me is a lot of contradictions, because life is messy and confusing. But if you don’t let this bother you too much, it can also be a hell of a lot of fun.

Part of the fun for me is about learning about myself and what makes me come alive. By making a note of when I feel most inspired I’ve been able to change my life to include more of these things, and less of the other stuff.

Some things that make me feel alive are:

  • Realising that I can make something I thought I’d have to buy. For me, craft is massively empowering. That feeling of having made your own necklace, dress, scarf or lampshade: something that’s uniquely you. Something that you haven’t had to rely on the exploitative practices of a corporation for, or made to feel as though you’re the wrong body shape because it doesn’t quite fit properly.
  • Hanging out with a true friend. You know the one, where you can talk for hours and still not want to go home. One of those friends who inspires you, makes you laugh more than anyone you know, who is there for you when things go wrong and celebrating alongside you when they go right. You always leave thinking “Why don’t we do this more often?”
  • Finding the answer to something I’ve been mulling over for a while. I’ve learnt not to panic about not knowing the answer to a question: what I want to wear to an event, what I’m going to blog about next week, what I want my tattoo to look like, how I feel about a particular person, whether I should apply for a different job. Whatever the question, I know I can’t rush the answer and I know I can’t listen to anybody but my own intuition. I might not know what to do right away but if I give myself enough thinking time it’ll suddenly come to me –  in the shower, on a run, or first thing in the morning – and the “that’s it!” moment makes me come alive.
  • Running further than I’ve ever run before (and enjoying it). After a few years of running about four miles three times a week I’ve started to push myself further. Sure, it might be more difficult, but the feeling of having run further than I’ve ever run in my life before (and thought I would be able to) far outweighs any physical discomfort.
  • Hearing that first guitar chord of a favourite song. Whether I’m in the audience, in my car or dancing in my kitchen.
  • Stepping out of the airport or train station into a new city. I love the feeling of opportunity that travel brings: the chance to explore a new place, meet new people and try new food.

As some of the things that make me feel alive things contradict each other, I’ve learnt to balance them. I had a busy social week last week, so this week I’m planning to spend more time alone: reading, creating, and going to bed early. It might not be sound very cool but being cool isn’t what being alive means to me. Being alive is knowing myself, embracing opportunities, being okay with not knowing all the answers, and most of all enjoying the ride.

A week’s worth of moments

On Monday I was walking back from the library wearing a t-shirt and skirt (bare legs, no coat) when it started to chuck it down with rain. My clothes were quickly soaked through and my hair dripping wet. I was cold and I was miserable. But then my phone shuffled onto a great song and I smiled. The rain changed from relentless to refreshing, the situation from annoying to amusing. By the time I got home I was laughing. My housemate was stood in the porch in her running kit, frowning as she watched the rain. “You’re soaked,” she said, quite unnecessarily. As soon as I went inside it stopped raining.

I woke up early on Tuesday and decided to lengthen my jog to work by running alongside the river. The path was emptier than usual and the water looked beautiful in the early morning sunshine.

Thursday was wonderfully sunny and we had a picnic lunch outside on the grass, almost forgetting that we were in the centre of a business park.

On Friday I discovered that something as simple as painting your fingernails bright colours while listening to great music can take you from a mood of wanting to crawl into bed to feeling excited about going to a party. (The party was great, and so were my nails).

Saturday reminded me that the measure of a good friendship is not seeing someone for years, but still picking up exactly where you left of. We spent seven house drinking coffee, eating great Lebanese food, wandering around Oxford and catching up.

20140413-211341.jpg

Sunday brought punting in the sunshine, and late afternoon cocktails. Just what weekends are made for.

(Apparently nothing ever happens on a Wednesday)