Old memories.

I’m sitting here tonight wanting to write a post about the end of an era – the sale of my childhood home. I kind of know what I want to write, and how I want to start it, yet the rest of words aren’t there quite yet in my head. So I’ll have to save that one for another time.

Instead, I’m listening to the album 21 by Adele. I know most of the songs off by heart, because I listened to this CD (yep, back in the shiny disc days) over and over again in my car driving to and from work when I was going through my separation (that and Katy Perry, but I’m after chilled out music right now). I’m thinking whether the songs are tainted now with those memories. Because well let’s face it, it was a pretty shitty time for me back then. Came to the conclusion that no they’re not now, but it’s taken a while. 4 years to be exact. I look back on it now like it was someone else’s life. Feels like a whole different lifetime ago, and I was a different person, just ask anyone that knew me back then. I don’t tend to try to look back too much, I’m a bit of a live in the moment kinda gal. I hate planning too far in advance and just tend to go with the flow, maxing out life where I can. But my ‘previous life’ seems to pop up loads, I can’t bloody escape it. I remember going to Peru in 2012, meeting lots of new people and my recent divorce would pop up in conversation, and I remember wanting to escape it. Thinking that it was just because it was so new, and such a big thing in my life back then and one day I could almost pretend it never happened. But I can’t. Now I’ve realised it’s likely to always crop up, for one reason or another. Whether meeting new people or chatting to old friends. And that pisses me off a bit. However. It’s made me who I am now. I can’t complain. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now without going through all that.

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Because you see, now I absolutely love the person who I am. I’m back to being me, true to myself and happy inside and out. In control of my life and my destiny. And having no idea what the future holds.

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This weekend just gone was a bit of a whirlwind tour of London, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Loads of travelling and catching up with loads of mates and family. Squeezing in as many people as possible for a hello, cup of tea and good old chin wag. Reminiscing about old memories and catching up on life right now.

I have SO much to smile about right now it’s unreal. So many good things happening, so many awesome people in my life. So many exciting opportunities and possibilities there for the taking. Life is awesome.

Sorry, I have no idea on the point of this post, or the direction it’s taken.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, or whether anything is making any sense really. I’m very tired, I’ve not stopped for days and have driven so many hundreds of miles I don’t really know whether I’m coming or going. I guess mainly it’s that I’ve had a few days of revisiting old memories. It’s been great to see lots of lovely familiar faces. A visit to Lincoln always stirs up old memories, it always will. So much happened there.

But it’s also a reminder that everything changes – Note: Take That reference ;) – and nothing stays still. As much as you might not want things to change, they will. It’s inevitable. No point in fighting it. Change is good. Change is exciting. But, it can also be scary. Frightening. Sad. A massive mixture of emotions. Just gotta roll with it. It’s how you deal with it that matters. All about how to think about stuff.

If you know anything about Buddhism, then a massive part of it is around impermanence. Worth reading up on if that’s your bag. I learnt about Buddhism, suffering, attachment, impermanence etc. when I did a 10 day silent retreat at a Buddhist meditation centre in India. Absolutely fascinating stuff, and helps with all kinds of shit in every day life for me. The point being that everything, and I mean everything, is not permanent. Is changing, every single second. Even that solid oak table. And if everything is changing, then nothing is permanent, and so how can you be attached to something that is changing all the time?

It’s all about how you look at things, and how you choose to react to them. What you let go, how to forgive and the difference between attachment and love.

impermanence quote TNH

No standing still. Don’t stand still. Embrace change.

Brave or bold?

Have you ever done something brave? Or been called brave?

I did something yesterday and two separate people have told me it was a brave thing to do. It got me thinking what does brave actually mean? Dodging bullets? Jumping off a bridge? Fighting illness? Speaking out for something you believe in?

I didn’t do any of the above. Not yesterday anyway.

I don’t particularly think what I did was brave, but if I think about it, it did take a bit of courage. Getting out of the comfort zone. Putting yourself out there. Opening yourself up for judgement. Knowing that things would change forever, regardless of the outcome. Risking something that’s important, knowing there’s a chance you could lose it.

So why do it?

Because the opposite is staying still. Not seeing what’s out there. Because there could be something amazing that could happen. Because if you never try, you never know.

I’m not one for What If’s. I like to give things a go, see what happens. Even if things go wrong, it’s how you deal with it that’s important, not the outcome.

Maybe being brave is about taking a risk or a chance. Knowing there’s a risk or a chance, and doing it anyway. Standing up and saying “Fuck it, do it”. Following your heart, not knowing where it would lead, or knowing it will lead somewhere that’s not necessarily the norm.Taking that massive giant leap into the unknown.

What’s the worst that could happen? You grow as a person, in one way or another. And that’s no bad thing. Oh yeah, sometimes things don’t work out the way I’d like. And yes, there’s a couple of things in life I wish I’d never done, but I don’t dwell on them. All of it makes me who I am now, and I can’t rewrite the past. Just try to learn from it and make sure I don’t make that mistake again. I’m working on that.

I don’t think I’m brave, but a hell of a lot of people I know are. Everyone’s got their own challenges, struggles in life. I salute you all.

And to the people I know who are on the edge of that bridge at the moment wondering whether to jump off or not:

DO IT. There’s a bungee cord attached to your feet; it’s called YOU. You can make sure you’ll be ok, no matter what happens. There are always choices.

 

That one moment.

Note: this post contains significant use of the F-word, sorry

Ever had one moment where your life changes forever? Where something just clicks, or changes, and BOOM, that’s it: life will never be the same again. Where you realise that you are capable of ANYTHING. That all the possibilities in the world are open, there for the taking.

I was reminded of mine tonight reading a post by the lovely Liz Goodchild (a fab life coach who I met in London once) who was writing about running and it’s effects.

My moment was in February 2011 in South Africa. Stood watching people throw themselves off Bloukrans Bridge, the highest commercial bridge bungy in the world (or at least it was then, not sure it still is, Macau might have that title now). I’d said before the trip I wanted to do it, we drove up went to the viewing platform. And well, fuck me, it’s HIGH. Fucking high. Thoughts through my head? Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Shit. Fuck fuck fuck. I stood there for ages deciding what to do.

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My brother took one look and decided it wasn’t for him (we’d both said beforehand that we’d do it). I on the other hand had already said I wanted to do it. I’d told people I wanted to do it. I reeeeeeaaaaalllllly wanted to do it. But, jesus shitting christ it was high.

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(In the picture above, there is someone dangling on a bungy rope but it’s hard to spot them as it’s SO HIGH and MASSIVE)

It’s actually 216 meters (709 feet) above the Bloukrans River.

High.

Anyway, long story short, I manned the fuck up, paid my cash and got harnessed up. No refunds if you wimp out. I wasn’t about to lose the cash and I also remembered telling Matt and Allister at work that I was going to do it. I just couldn’t change my mind. I needed to do it. All the while silently crapping myself.

The walk along to the middle of the bridge was terrifying. It’s underneath the bridge along a metal SEE-THROUGH walkway. What the actual? How to give someone a heart attack before you start. Amazingly, my absolutely-terrified-of-heights-ex-husband came with me onto the bridge, and I know he was crapping it worse than me. So that helped. He wasn’t about to chuck himself off though.

I can still remember as clear as day stood on the bridge. Realising there was no way out (well, of course I could have not done it, but that wasn’t an option) and I had to do it, there was no choice. Fog had started to come through the gorge and so I was looking at jumping into white mist. Better or worse? I couldn’t see the bottom or what I was jumping into. Okay, so I couldn’t see the bottom but then it becomes unknown. A white abyss. It felt just as bad to me.

Strapped up, ready to go. Anyone who’s done a bungy jump will know that feeling of stood on the edge, nothing to hold onto, and that brief feeling of panic because THERE IS NOTHING TO HOLD ONTO. Panic panic panic and then, JUMP. And then the feeling of falling. That completely unnatural feeling of falling.

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And then the pull and squeeze around your ankles. Then the upwards freefalling. And then bounce. And then eventually, STOP. And dangle. For what seems forever.

And that was the moment. My moment. Hanging upside down from a bridge in a South African gorge, legs shaking from adrenaline (so much that I did worry they’d shake out of the ropes), that I realised. Out loud. “I did it. I did it. I fucking did it. Hahahahahaha.” (cue manic near-hysterical out loud laughing) And then I realised, if I could do that, I could do ANYTHING. And I did. That year was THE year my life changed. The year I left my marriage and everything I’d known for over 10 years and started living my life how I wanted. Doing all the shit I realised I could do. And every year I’ve done more. Because I know I can do whatever I want, no matter how scared I feel. No matter how many times I stand and say fuck, fuck, fuck in my head, there’s a little voice that also says “you can do it, you can fucking do it.”

Live your dreams.

(PS: If you want to see the jump, the video is here)

If you’ve got something to say.

Then say it. Been a while since I’ve blogged. Been busy and not had much that I’ve wanted to write about, and BOOM, all of a sudden it’s July. I’ve got loads of half finished blog posts, but somehow I can’t finish them. I write whatever comes out of my head you see, so I have to be in the right mood for writing. Then it just flows. So what I want to say tonight is about saying what you feel and being honest.

Last week I finally had a conversation with someone that we probably should have had quite a while ago. It was good, as I/we finally got Closure. But it made me realise that we should have talked about certain stuff earlier. But, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to ask questions because I didn’t want to know the answers. I assumed some stuff, even though everyone else was telling me different. But I should have stopped assuming and asked the person in question.

Thing is, you never really know what’s going on in people’s heads. What they think or how they feel. OK, so I guess you can kind of tell by how they act, but I know that this isn’t always the case, for a variety of reasons. So asking a person, or talking to them about stuff is a better way to find out, the only way to know for sure. Unless they lie, or tell you something different but there’s not a lot you can do about that. And sometimes, if you don’t know, you project what you think they might be thinking or feeling onto them, and end up making things up in your own head.

Not sure of the exact point of this post. Maybe it’s that if I had had the earlier conversations then something might have been different now. Can’t think like that though. I don’t do What If’s. Generally think things are meant to be, and I know in this particular situation the way it’s turned out is right. But what I’ve learnt from this is that I’ll [try] to not assume things. And I WILL say things if I feel them or ask those questions. Because the other sad lesson I keep learning is that life is short. It can be very short. So, why hold off until tomorrow what you can do today? Because one day it might be too late. Why miss opportunities because you think there is all the time in the world? Especially if happiness is involved.

So even more so time now for me to think “fuck it, throw caution to the wind” and make opportunities, live life how I want and say how I feel. If I don’t like the answers, well that’s just tough. I’ll have to deal with them and move on.  After all life is:

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Twitchy babbling blah.

I’m feeling twitchy this week. Like I have lots to do and I don’t know where to start. Like I have a million ideas and don’t know what to think about first. Which is kind of true and kind of not. I have a few things to do, yep, but nothing major. All of it can wait (what for, I don’t know). I have ideas but they’re all little ones that I’m not sure how to start developing. And I want to write. But I don’t know what about. I have about 5 blog posts in draft but none of them feel right yet. The words just don’t come. I have to be in the right mood for these words to get written down (which probably explains why a lot of my posts are perhaps rambly and babbly as it’s just what comes out of my brain with little filter). So I end up doing nothing. This is probably familar to a lot of people. Bloody procrastination.

I’m away with work so I’ve just been for a walk to look for a supermarket to buy Maltesers. Procrastination. Something to do. I didn’t even really want the Maltesters (although they’re tasting pretty damn good, and I’m sure they help me to write). What I should have done is just gone for a walk and got some fresh air. As when I was walking I realised I just needed to write something, and I have done for a while now. And so this is it. I just haven’t known what to write about. Nothing seemed right, or too negative, or not that interesting. But then that’s life though, isn’t it? The ups and downs, the good and the not-so-good. Not everyone can have the perfect life, all the time.

——–The Maltesers are all gone now. Writing will get shit.

Have you heard of #lifeunfiltered? It’s a hashtag that’s doing the rounds on social media to highlight the difference between what people post on social media and how life actually is. Because most people don’t want to post what a shitty time they’re having. They create this amazing life to portray to people. What they want people to see. So you see a smiling picture on Facebook and assume that everything’s OK, when actually it’s anything but.

OK, so no one wants to post the crappy mundane stuff. And in all likelihood no one probably wants to read about it either. But unless you ask, you’re unlikely to know if someone’s having a tough time. Or unless they tell you. Because that’s the other thing. People (and I’m aware I’m talking in general, but I’m kind of basing this on anecdotal evidence from conversations I’ve had with people and media articles – as always, please take with a pinch of salt and feel free to enter in a discussion with me) aren’t necessarily interacting as much anymore, because social media does it for you, right? You can see someone’s OK because they’ve posted a picture and liked your status. You don’t need to actually speak to them do you? Or even message them? I posted about this once when I was travelling. Because I found that because I was away, posting all my pictures and blogging about it, people stopped getting in touch. You know, saying hello or asking me how I was. Or telling me what they were up to. It’s just not the same, trust me.

“But I’m so busy.”

I’m sure everyone has heard or said that. Hell, I have said it. And only recently. And kind of why I’m writing this post. The last six weeks or so for me has been pretty tough and relentless. Some of it is my own doing, and some of it unfortunate circumstance or bad timing. Training for London to Paris as well as trying to foster a new social life in a place I’d just moved to, work a job that involves me being away from home most weeks and all the travel logistics that go with it, keep all the usual domestic stuff going with only the weekend to do it all, try and keep fit and healthy, a bereavement and being away from family, a birthday spent alone without any cards or phone calls and trying to not neglect existing friendships/social life. And frankly, I struggled. I’m still struggling.

But did I post about this on social media? No. (Well, unless you count this post, but I think this is different, I’m a bit back on track by now, although sorry to anyone I saw last weekend as I know I wasn’t quite myself.) Because the other thing is that it’s hard when people know you as a positive, sociable person who just gets on with things. They sometimes don’t know how to handle it. And as that person, it’s hard to tell people or ask for support. And sometimes when you do, and you don’t get it, that makes it twice as hard.

I’m normally busy, and I know so many people are but it’s about prioritising the things you enjoy rather than things that stress you out. For me, I like being busy with all the things I love doing (e.g. I don’t have any time to watch TV but I prefer to go running) but I don’t like having all my free time planned in. I need to be spontaneous to either do something or do nothing. I like to have the choice. And for me it’s important that I keep in touch with people outside of social media. Or, directly, rather than just liking a status etc. Because of the above. People are having crappy times but you’d never know. So maybe it’s time to ask them actually how they are, rather than taking their life as it is perceived through a collection of status, pictures and 140 character statements. Get involved.

I haven’t really looked at social media much recently, so if I haven’t liked your status or pictures it’s not because I’m being rude, it’s just had to take a back seat. Let’s try and talk about it instead eh? Talk about real life. #lifeunfiltered.

So here’s my #lifeunfiltered photo tonight. Think working away from home is exciting, glamorous and fun? Not always. The reality tonight – the unfiltered – is a box of Maltesers, a single bed, cups of tea made with UHT milk and writing this. I’m missing my flat, my own bed and my Kindle, which I forgot to bring with me. I miss cooking my own tea and having something healthy. I’m annoyed at myself for eating Maltesers, because I wouldn’t have done that at home tonight. Of course I could have gone and explored London and gone for a walk or a run by the river and it would have been amazing. But I’m shattered and my mojo’s on holiday for a bit.

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I’m not sure what the conclusion of this post is. Think this is one of those posts that’s probably been more helpful to me to write than for anyone to read. But maybe the moral is to not take everything at social media face value. Don’t use it like a spy hole into people’s lives, as it’s probably not real; interact with people as well. Don’t assume that everyone is doing OK. Some people might need a bit of support. And that support might be something as simple as asking how they are.

 

Do you know what you’re looking for?

Someone tonight told me they hope I get whatever I am after in life. A kind of, “hope you find what you are looking for”. I had someone else say that to me before I went travelling too. I was a bit surprised because I’m not really after anything, except to be happy. Maybe I give off a vibe. I hope not. Definitely not looking for anything. Kind of insinuates that I spend my life looking or searching, never quite satisfied. Not so. I like to live in the moment as much as I can. I don’t really have a plan, or life goals. Don’t think I like to coast though, oh no. There’s always stuff in my head that I fancy doing, or want to give a go. A kind of bucket list that’s not written down, mainly because I don’t feel the need right now, and also because it just keeps changing and evolving.

Granted, I did think that perhaps I’d come back from my time away having figured out a bit more what I wanted to do, but alas! This was not to be. In fact, I came back with more questions than answers. But I also came back knowing that I probably would never know, and that actually that’s OK .And questions are good. I know I can create opportunities where I want to. And that if something’s not right, I can change it. And things just have a habit of working out, and going in a natural direction as long as I work towards it. i’m quite a simple creature; I just want to be happy. So I spend my time doing things that make me feel happy, and spend my time with people that make me feel happy.

Are you looking for something? If you spend your life looking or searching for something, there’s a risk you miss whats actually happening. What is it you’re looking for – does it even exist?

Don’t spend your life looking too far ahead, because you miss the now. And the now is where it’s at.

How to bike from London to Paris in two easy steps.

1. Buy a bike.

2. Pedal.

Yep, it’s as easy as that.

Kind of.

When I signed up to cycle London to Paris in 24 hours, I didn’t really read all the details. So I didn’t really appreciate how far it was or how much training I’d have to put in. Or how many times I’d fall off before getting the hang of clippy pedals. Or how much nutrition plays a part. And how hard training can be if you want to try and have some kind of social life. Especially when you’ve just moved to a new place and are making new friends. Or how much kit I’d need. And how much it would cost in all. Or how much of a headache the logistics would be.

But, I’d signed up. I’d paid the cash and committed. No going back. I wanted to do it.

So I did what I needed to do. I tried to get out on Bob the Bike as much as I could. Which, when you work away most of the week, is not that much. I got bored with the training. The weather hasn’t been that great and I hate to admit that I’m a bit of a fair-weather biker. Not a fair-weather runner, but biking in the rain isn’t that appealing.

I tried to eat well but that didn’t always work out. I tried not to drink too much. I tried to get enough sleep.

D-day came around pretty quickly. I’d managed to get everything sorted for it, like all the practicalities of getting to London, staying in Paris and getting back again, but did I feel prepared? Did I fuck. I’d felt positive a couple of weeks before after a pretty intensive training weekend back in Lincs. I’d cycled a decent amount, in all weather too and my legs felt good. I’d been going to BMF and still running a bit so felt my overall fitness was alright. But the weekend before the event I didn’t get out on the bike at all. In fact I spent it out socialising, drinking and eating shit food. Not the best way and when the Saturday came around the positivity I’d felt the week before had definitely slipped down the scale somewhat. But, being the eternal optimist I am, it was still there. Because it never really crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I knew I would, somehow. Even if it took me ages and I limped towards the Eiffel Tower, I always pictured myself doing it. Not doing it just wasn’t an option, because I’m stubborn and it was in my power. No one else was going to do it for me so I sure as hell would give it my best shot.

So off I trotted with Bob, my gear for a couple of days in Paris, a comforting sense of mild apprehension and some lovely messages of support. Also walking like I was wearing a nappy, courtesy of some beautiful new padded GORE cycling shorts I’d been given (later to be worth their weight in gold, frankincense AND myrrh).

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Thank you, First Great Western for making it so easy to travel to London with my bike. Not so easy on the underground, although I can’t blame TFL for that. It’s just not easy taking a full size bike onto a crammed circle line train at lunchtime on a Saturday (although before you say anything, it’s allowed, it’s off peak and one of the few lines you CAN take a bike onto. I checked. Obvs.). As I would have loved to have pointed out to a chap on the tube. I would have actually acknowledged that I know I was a fucking pain in that car if he been man enough to say something to me about it rather than ranting under his breath to his girlfriend thinking I couldn’t hear.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a blow-by-blow account of the whole 200 miles. You wouldn’t want to read that just as much as I wouldn’t want to write it. But, just while we’re on the subject, 200 miles is quite a long way I think. I still can’t really picture it in my head. But it’s a fairly long way to drive in the car, so even longer to bike. I just never really thought of it as 200 miles. Think that’s the key. Just think of the stints between rest stops. Between 20-30 miles each one. Pedal, stop, EAT, pedal, stop, EAT, pedal, stop EAT.

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Yes, yes, you have to EAT. And eat LOTS. This is good for me. I like EATING. The rest stops on this challenge were immense. So much food to choose from. It’s actually amazing how much of a difference this makes. If you don’t eat enough there’s just no energy. Keep fuelling and you can keep going. The human body is an amazing thing. Food is fuel really, that’s all.

So the English leg was a bit time pressured. We had to make the ferry or that was it, adventure over before it began. So, pedal to the metal. Or, foot to the pedal. Or pedal to the floor. Whichever, the legs had to spin round fairly fast. And there were a lot of hills. Good job I’d done most of my training in the Cotswolds. A mixture of riding with new friend Roger, who kept me entertained up and down the hills of the South Downs, and riding alone day dreaming and admiring the view and thanking my nappy shorts for meaning my arse wasn’t hurting yet. About 10 miles to go and the rain started. We’d actually been really lucky up to then and it was only cold and windy. It was supposed to rain all afternoon so an hour in the rain wasn’t too bad. So, it got wet. And dark. Luckily I’d caught up with some riders and there were some behind me too, so we rode into Newhaven in a small peloton of flashing red lights, dripping helmets, big smiles of relief and confusion over the entrance to the Premier Inn. Note: riding a bike in the dark in rain with glasses means you can’t actually see much apart from huge flashing fuzzy red circles. Solution: Stick to the wheel of the guy in front of you and hope he doesn’t brake suddenly. 

Getting to the Newhaven Premier Inn in really good time was a huge boom. I was well chuffed with myself and my legs. It was the most I’d cycled in one go (60 miles) and my legs felt strong and my arse was absolutely fine. Things were looking sweeeeet. Being soaked wet and going inside, eating and then having to layer back up in wet stuff to get back on a wet bike to cycle the 5 mins to the ferry port wasn’t so sweet though, but it was one milestone down and I knew I had a few hours in a [hopefully] warm ferry to dry out. Oh, and of course it wouldn’t be raining in France because that’s abroad and every knows it’s warm abroad, right?

11059718_10153271100251341_9194213874000144991_nI didn’t really think about what was to come. Whether it would be raining or not. What’s the point? It would be what it would be. What I tried to do was go to sleep. Didn’t quite manage it. Think I got about an hour. Dried out though. By the time we’d got through all the passport shizzle and eaten a banana or two, we were all off at 5am french time, riding in the dark on the wrong side of the road, flashing red lights as far as the eye could see.

I’ve only been to France once before, to Nice, so riding through little quaint countryside villages at dawn with silence apart from cockerels crowing (reminded me of Laos, seemingly the SE Asian land of cocks) and no one around was pretty special, but having to keep up the speed, concentrate on where you’re going and try to hug someone’s back wheel as close as possible to get in their slipstream meant that I didn’t really get a lot of time to look around and take it in. I do remember being pleased it was flat though. And smooth tarmac. Lovely.

And the route was fairly flat. Only a couple of hills (one only about 20 miles from Paris when most people had tired legs, but that earnt me the title Hill Monster. YES.). This is a fact to rejoice, although I do like the other side of a hill. You know, the coming down bit. That’s fun. Unless there are potholes. Then it’s not. My top speed on the english bit was 63km/hr. That’s over 40 mph I think (can’t be arsed to look for the conversion). You don’t want to be hitting a pothole at that speed, trust me.

It rained though. Pretty much all the way. Mostly drizzle that you kind of forgot about, but sometimes really heavy. We were all soaked for the whole 12 hours or so we were biking in France. Didn’t notice it after a while. And my kit served me well. Very well.

I rode with a small peloton all the way. We swapped stories, laughs, interesting facts and Bon Jovi songs. There were wild boar, bike pile ups and accidents involving sunglasses and commando rolls. We got stopped by the Police, who couldn’t really speak English and so ended up just telling us to ‘bike faster’. Pretty sure we were ALL GOING AS FAST AS WE COULD RIGHT THEN. I learnt more weird cycling hand signals used when biking in a group. It’s like another language.

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I learnt about nutrition, or mainly what not to eat. I’d not had chance to practice any kind of strategy (in fact most of my training rides were done without any nutrition – not recommended), In my case on this ride it was protein bar type things. Easy to put in a jersey pocket but my stomach did not like them. Not one bit. I spent the last 50 miles (believe me, this is a Long Way) with stomach ache trying not to think about needing a shit. I had to stop twice to be a bear in the woods. I’m sorry to all the people in the bar who got this story first hand that night. But, in the interests of education to all you people who may want to know what it’s like to do something like this, it’s important you know the actual Truth. It is not glamorous. I don’t normally have protein bars or any kind of of protein shakes etc. And I definitely wouldn’t again. Natural stuff all the way. Next time I’d make sure I had time beforehand to prepare some stuff to take with me.

Next time?

Yes, I said next time. As much as I am pleased it’s over and feel like I’ve got my weekends back, it was an incredible experience that I am one million percent pleased that I did. That I signed up on a whim and gave it a go. Because this used to be the kind of thing that other people did. That I read about but never thought I’d be able to do. But now, now it’s the kind of stuff do. I achieved it. ME. I DID IT. I tell you, that feeling of seeing and riding up to the Eiffel Tower for the first time was pretty damn special. And I got there without feeling completely broken! I actually did a little jog once I was off my bike to show my legs still worked. Probably completely high on endorphins and adrenaline at that point but hey, I could still walk. And surprisingly, my arse was not in bits. The ibuprofen I’d been popping religiously probably helped, but also my new shorts. Super nappy strength padding. I could sit down perfectly well. OK, so the whole area was a bit, shall we say, delicate, but this is hardly surprising after riding a bike for 18 hours in wet gear. A bit of savlon and a nights sleep sorted that out.

That smile, that’s for fucking real, that is.

11128625_10153271100871341_3010373041973151811_nThat and for my grandad, who died a week before I did this and so never got to know that I made it. And for all the people that want to but can’t do something like this, for whatever reason. I didn’t do this for charity, although I know a lot of people did. Do feel free to donate to your favourite charity though if you’ve been inspired. Or stick a few pence in the charity tin at the next shop checkout you go to.

I met so many awesome people; all doing the same thing but for so many different reasons. Everyone has their own story, struggles and motivations. All brought together by a common interest and a beer afterwards. The sweetest beer.

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So yes, there will probably be a next time. There will be something else. Right now the only things I have signed up for are a few running things over the summer. A half marathon, a 24 hour team relay endurance run and an obstacle course. There will be some summer cycling though, trust me. Me and Bob are not ready to part company just yet.

I’ve realised that the human body is an amazing thing. My body amazes me. I think I’m maybe fitter than I thought. I know I can do stuff, and I’m still figuring out what that is. If I don’t give things a go then I’ll never find out.

Life is for living, and for me, this is how I choose to live.

If anyone is thinking of doing anything similar, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. You CAN do it, it WILL be amazing and you should totally do it. Give it a go. If you don’t try you’ll never know. What have you got to lose?

You can do anything you bloody want to, you just have to believe.

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Tinder trouble.

So I was persuaded to do a Tinder experiment this week by some mates and to report back in a blog post. Because when you’re single, people tend to start saying stuff like “why don’t you try internet dating, ooh try Tinder” blah blah blah. Some because they think I should be in a relationship, some because they think it would be fun for me and some because it would be fun for them to live vicariously through me. So I’ll start with the caveat that I’m not looking for a relationship, or even to date really. I’m quite perfectly happy being single and already know internet dating wouldn’t be for me anyway, even if I was looking. I just want to make new friends.

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So this will be a pretty heavily biased review as I’m not really the target audience for it, but I thought I’d be open minded and give it a go and see what happened. If anything, I like chatting to people and might end up making a new friend or two out of it. IT COULD BE FUN. If anything, hopefully it will provide you a laugh reading this.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Tinder is a phone app where you upload a few photos and a bit of blurb about yourself then either swipe left (no) or swipe right (yes) if you like the look of someone. Then they do the same. And if both people swipe right, you’re a match can message each other. Really simple, if not totally superficial. I suspect it’s predominately used for no strings fun and doubt it’s designed to meet your soulmate if you subscribe to that kind of thing.

So, I stuck a profile with some blurb about how I was new to Cheltenham, liked the outdoors, travel and anything sporty and wasn’t looking for just a hook up. Thought that might ward away any weirdos at the offset just wanting to get in my pants. But here was the first hurdle. What photos to put on? A lot of mine are instagrammed to shit. So they look alright but probably give a false impression. What if I actually meet these people? Will they be hugely disappointed when they meet me and realise I don’t actually look like that? No one wants THAT, even if I don’t actually give a shit. I want to put nice pictures, of course. No one wants no matches. THE PRESSURE. In the end I figured that I probably wouldn’t meet any of these people, it was just an experiment so it didn’t really matter anyway. (Ha! Rookie mistake.) Decided on a mix of decent pictures and a couple where I’m in the middle of a run or hike which obviously show my ‘sporty’ side. That would do. Helpful tip: the app defaults to your last 3 or 4 facebook photos but you can change them. Handy if one of your last couple of profile pictures is you in your underwear, that’s not going to help the no hookup message. Even if it is sportswear.

Verdict: Felt like I was putting myself up for sale in a catalogue or a competition prize “ooh, look what you could win”. Hmmm.

So, personal advert to the men of Cheltenham done, I set my search criteria (you can choose to view people by age, proximity etc.). Ruled out any real youngsters and oldies. Let’s keep it real people.

Now the fun could begin. And it was fun. For about half an hour. Then I got a bit bored. If you are someone who judges people on their looks then you’ll be alright I think. Lots of people to scrutinise. There’s a lot of people that hadn’t put much thought into what photos they were going to post. Or maybe they had, and they were being ironic. So I DID had a real giggle at what I was having to work with to make my swiping dilemmas. They kind of fell into a few camps, I saw the same kind of patterns. Here’s the kind of things that made me swipe left (no way Jose):

  • Anyone with pictures that weren’t them (cartoon characters, animals, landscapes). So do you actually look like Bart Simpson? Obviously not. And I don’t actually care enough to find out otherwise.
  • Bed selfies/half naked selfies. Now, I’m aware how hypocritical this is, I’m partial to both of these. But not on Tinder.
  • Shower selfies. Nah.
  • People without much/any blurb. I need some info people. You might look hot but if you’re into dog fighting or something. No.
  • Pictures where you’re holding up knives and guns. (Yes, really). OK they might be toys but still.
  • People with more than one photo where they look different in each one. Do you have a non-identical twin? Or just hardly any photos?
  • People who just post group pictures. WHICH ONE ARE YOU?
  • Pictures of penis’s (penii?). When is that EVER attractive?
  • Pictures of muscles. There’s a LOT of these in Cheltenham. Just like fancy cars, these don’t do it for me. Being fit, healthy and lean, yep. Triangle muscle men? Nah, not for me thanks.
  • Pictures of your achievements in the newspaper. Tell me about it instead.
  • Onesie pictures. Pretty sure a picture of me in my pyjamas wouldn’t be that interesting to you either.
  • Pictures not of your face. Specifically, the back of your head. Am sure no one ever met up with someone because the back of their head is nice. Although, if you’ve got a shaved head the shape of your head is important, so…. anyway. I digress.
  • Photos in fancy dress. I can’t see what you look like with half the face paint counter on. Although, clearly this shows you are up for a laugh and fun. Apart from the fact that you’re dressed as a serial killer.
  • Marine’s or Marine wannabees. Been there, done that. You won’t match up.
  • One picture, no blurb, the picture being you in a suit of armour. You’re probably going for ‘hey I’m funny, swipe to see and find out more’. But frankly, I can’t be fucking arsed.
  • Just one picture. I need to see more to see whether that was just a good picture. Or a shit picture. Because, well, it’s amazing how different people can be in photos at a different angle….
  • Pictures of you doing lots of activities like bungy jumping and sky diving. It’s good because I’d probably like you but I also can’t see what you look like.
  • People with catalogue photos and blurb saying you’re not single but after a good time. Err, no thanks buddy. Try imboredinmymarriage.com
  • Clearly photoshopped images. That 6 pack isn’t yours, is it love?
  • No picture at all – not sure you’ve grasped the concept of this…
  • Really pixelated photos. You know you can preview no?
  • People not smiling. Come on!
  • ALL your pictures are of your six pack. One OK, more than 1? Obsessive.
  • Pictures of cars. ARE YOU A CAR?
  • Picture of a beach. ARE YOU THE OCEAN?
  • A picture of a sandwich. White bread? No, no, no.
  • Blurb that includes gems such as “ I don’t bite….unless you want me to” and “willing to lie about how we met” and “good luck” (WTF!) or “not on here much” (what’s the point then?)
  • People that look like they’re from TOWIE or Made in Chelsea. Just not my cup of tea.
  • People that look like they spend more time the bathroom than I do. To be fair though, this is not actually that difficult, I’m not a preener.
  • Posts like they’re written by someone’s pet. Cooky or just weird?
  • Anyone that looks or sounds like my ex husband. Sorry, can’t do it.
  • Pictures of your feet. With shoes or not, I don’t have a foot fetish.
  • Photos of you naked sat on the toilet. REALLY?
  • Anyone with the name Dopeboy. No.
  • Staring intently into the camera lens. Like a serial killer.
  • Putting your mobile number in your blurb.
  • Photos all from one side of your face. What’s wrong with the other side?
  • Pictures of you in womens clothing. Hmm, not sure.
  • Putting your snapchat name in your blurb. You just want to send pictures of your dick and see pictures of my tits, don’t you?
  • A selfie clearly taken in bed with a girlfriend (now chopped out). You couldn’t take another one? Surely you own a phone?
  • A picture of you with 1D when they were about 12. Is that a good claim to fame for a 30 year old man? Swiped right for this one though.
  • Excessive use of exclamation marks. Every! Word! Should! Not! End! In! An! Exclamation! Mark!
  • When I fancied their mates in their pictures more than the person. Made me wonder if their mates were on Tinder too….

So that kind of ruled out A LOT of people. I didn’t swipe right that much. Mainly just for people that looked happy, smiley and that seemed to do similar stuff to me. Running pictures generally got a thumbs up, as did cycling or bungee jumping, or anything sporty. I figured if I’m going to make any friends, it might as well be with people I’ve got stuff in common with.

I still didn’t like it though. I felt like I was being hugely judgemental. Does that mean I should swipe right for everyone? No, I don’t think so. It means for me that I shouldn’t use shit like this. I’m not a judgemental person at all, and will talk to anyone and everyone. Prefer to do that in person though and not have to make a decision by swiping left or right.

And this was before any bloody messaging was going on.

So, if both people swipe right, then that’s a match. A match. Which brings with it fear and dread. And anticipation. Who should message first? Is it gentlemanly for them to start? What should you say? Is there tindering etiquette? How long should you wait? I don’t bloody know. Is there game playing and rules? Meh, bollocks to that if there is. I settled for a cheery hello, if I’d not already been messaged first. That’d do eh?

So, next there is chit chat over messages. Now there are even more important things to think about. Like how many smileys are too many? Will I sound like an alcoholic if I share drinking stories? Are typos acceptable? How do I say I’m only really looking to make friends? How long do you message before you meet up? Should you meet up? How do you know if you want to meet up? How many times can I type lol without sounding like a teenager? Should messages be flirty? How can messages be flirty? I’m shit at flirting. Or knowing when people are flirting.

After at least 30 seconds pondering all that, I decided to just be myself. No point in being anything else. If people don’t like my excessive use of smileys or lols, then I don’t want to be their friend. Lol. :P

I’ve been told it’s pretty normal for people on tinder/internet dating etc. to be ‘chatting’ to many people at once. So it’s also normal for people to know when you are active, leading to cries of “but they haven’t replied to my message but they were active 10 minutes ago”. ‘Last seen’ and ‘Read’ are inventions of evil, according to my online dating friends. But this also means that it’s quite easy to drop people. Just stop messaging them. Apparently, after discussing this with people, it’s a harsh world out there. When people are behind your computer screen it seems some manners go out the window, under the pretence of efficiency and getting on with it. “Why waste time?” seems to be a general thought. Seems a bit harsh to me but I guess a lot of people are on a relationship-gaining mission and Nothing Will Come In Their Way. Especially as you get older, because society tells us that we must be odd and weird if we are Still Single in our 30’s and so some people start panicking.

One of them asked me what I did for a living and I told him. Haven’t heard from him since. Nada, Maybe he’s had a bad experience with a HR consultant at some point. Should I be offended? No idea. I’m not.

A couple of them I will meet, whether I actually wanted to or not, as they’re members of the running club I will join (when I actually have time). Obviously potential for awkward turtle there. Don’t think it will be though. They seem quite nice and chatty and friendly, and I’m out to meet new friends, so all is good.

I’m not on it any more; I lasted an evening of swiping and then a day or so of messaging. Then I’ve kept in touch with a couple of people I’ve been messaging with, will be meeting up with them I think, but not for dates, just to make a new friend really and go from there.

I suspect most people are on it to get a bit of sex, and then maybe something more. Some might be after a relationship but as the app’s very nature is based on physical attraction it’s possibly the minority.

Tinder’s not for me, I knew that before I started but gave it a go, and nope, it’s still not. Subconsciously I know that I’m unlikely to find the kind of person I’d be after through something like Tinder. But, it was fun to give it a go. And after my little experiment I might at least make some new friends.

I find it really off putting that people are looking at my photos and judging me. Looking and rating me on basically whether they would want to sleep with me. Do people do that in real life? Well, yeah, course they do. I don’t. Not really. OK I guess I notice whether I find someone attractive or not, but that’s probably as far as I go. I don’t start thinking about what they’d look like naked. Oh, OK, maybe sometimes I do actually. I definitely DON’T think about whether they would be a good husband or father to any potential children. I know some people do that. And I find it really odd. But then I don’t even look at people (even after I’ve met them) and start thinking about potential relationships. To me, I meet people, become friends and if I like their company then I see them again. Romantic stuff doesn’t usually enter my head unless the other person has made a reference to it or I find them particularly attractive. And even if I am seeing them “romantically”, relationships don’t always enter my head as an option unless someone spells it out (cases in point: The Marine or the other one, and we all know how they ended).

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Personality makes people attractive. At least in my world. 

After all that, I definitely wouldn’t tell people not to go on Tinder. It CAN be quite fun. It just depends what you’re after. If you don’t expect anything serious, and fancy a bit of fun, then give it a go. And it also probably helps if you’re looking to meet/date people. But it does require a bit of effort and time. All that swiping and messaging and stuff. Jesus. Or I might just be a lazy bastard. Either way, perhaps you should give it a go yourself.

Oh, and if you’re the person telling someone they should try Tinder, all this is what you’d be letting loose on them. Do it at your peril.

Sausages.

Just wrote a post. Deleted it accidentally. Bollocks. Now have to remember what I wrote. Or write something again. FFS.

I was going to blog about something tonight but I can’t for the life of me remember what. Probably something to do with the couple of drinks I had in the pub tonight after a long day in Edinburgh and not much food. Made me a bit woozy (also disclaimer for any typos). Got home and grilled 3 sausages for tea. That’s it, just 3 sausages and some tomato sauce. I am a responsible adult. I’m sure other people living alone know what I mean. Sometimes it’s a royal pain in the arse to just cook for yourself. So you end up making nutritionally questionable meals such as 3 sausages. I did follow it up after a bit with some seeds and nutty cereal shit. Much more nutritional value. So not all bad.

I got reminded this week of a phrase first said to me by one of my dear friends a couple of years ago. Whether he made it up or nicked it from someone else, I don’t really care. Just thought it summed me and my life up.

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I was reminded just how much I don’t want the nine-to-five. I hate the word average. But that’s maybe what I mean. I don’t want it to sound negative as there’s nothing wrong with it but it’s just not for me. We all know I tried it. And for a decent amount of time too. But I just couldn’t do it. OK, so yes, I guess now I do have a ‘normal’ life and a ‘normal’ job. Well, kind of. I work Monday to Friday but in different places each week. Doing different stuff, staying away from home. My life is busy, I know it is. But good busy, it’s how I like it. Doing loads of different stuff. Trying new things. Full of adventure, new stuff, excitement and fun. And yes, relaxing down time, every now and then. Ish. I love meeting new people, making new friends, being inspired and humbled by all those new people that all have a story. Stories that open my eyes up to the world. In the slightly-cringy words of Ronan Keating, life is a rollercoaster. Just the way I like it.

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I was also talking to a friend of mine who I first met in Hong Kong about the dreaded words ‘settling down’ and whether you had to or not. Well, obviously, it’s a personal choice, and it’s only wrong if you’re doing something you don’t want to. Settling down will mean different things to different people, but the main thing we agreed on is that you shouldn’t just do what society wants you to do, or what the ‘norm’ is if that’s not what you actually want to do. Follow your heart, be free, and don’t settle. On any account.

Deep down you’re likely to know what your passions are, what you want to do and how you want to live your life. Be brave to let that out, and say what it is you want to say. Show and tell the world the real you, and don’t give a shit about what anyone else says. Why is it any of their business? Life’s too short. If you want to eat sausages for tea, eat fucking sausages.

Meeting people.

One of the nice things about moving to a new place was that I didn’t know anyone. Yes, even for a social bastard like me, I love my own company, so it was kind of nice to move somewhere and have a bit of anonymity after a few months of being almost manically sociable back in Lincoln. It’s kind of like travelling again; rocking up in a new place not knowing where anything is, not knowing anyone and having to explore and find stuff out. OK, I knew one person here before I moved but that’s not quite the same. It’s exciting to start from scratch.

I know a lot of people wondered why I wanted to move somewhere where I don’t know anyone. And I know a lot of people would hate it. But for me it’s all part of the adventure.

So how do you meet people?

Maybe you’d meet people at work; a lot of my friends are people I’ve worked with over the last couple of years at the Police and the Uni. But I don’t work in Cheltenham, so that’s out. I have got mates with my job now, but they’re based all over so it’s not quite the same.

So you kind of just have to go out there and talk to people. Yeah, you know, make an effort. Be chatty. You also need to be prepared for people to think you’re a weirdo, or to not like you. Or to get freaked out at someone being so forward. But that’s OK; you’ve got to cast a few nets to catch a few fish. As we all know, I do like to chat and have no problem with inviting myself along to stuff or being the person to make arrangements.

I know a few more people now, although to be honest, I’ve not made much of a proper effort. I’ve had a lot of visitors since I moved <which has been GREAT, of course> but it’s also meant that I haven’t had much time to get out and about and do stuff, or meet new people.

There’s a couple of clubs I’ve found that I want to join (running and cycling) and I’ve signed up for BMF (British Military Fitness), but I’ve just not had the chance to get along to any sessions yet. Am hoping to next weekend, so I should meet more people there.

There’s a few people I ‘know’ from an internet forum and twitter that I’m going to meet up with soon, when everyone can make the same date. I’ve joined a few groups on meetup.com (great site) and went out for drinks with a group of women last week which was much fun. Twitter is great for getting to know people – I’ve met many people in real life that I’ve known from Twitter, both here and abroad when I was travelling.

I’ve accosted most of my neighbours at one point or another and was out with the girl from the flat next door on Friday night, and have been out a couple of times with the guy from number 3, and often borrow milk off him or go round for a cup of tea. A bit like with Karl back in Lincoln, although I don’t really know him well enough yet to know whether he’d stop me falling face first into cat food or come let me in my house in the early hours of the morning. Still appreciate that Karl. Each and every time :D. I also realised that the guy from number 3 looks a lot like Big Andy from the Electric Bar from all those moons ago. Probably subconsciously why I asked him out for a beer.

I also met a girl in a whisky shop where we swapped numbers, and have been out a couple of times with her and her other half, and some of her friends. I did wonder whether she initially thought I might have been asking her out on a date when I suggested we should go out and swap numbers, but hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? That’s what I mean about making the effort. It’s also how I ended up having beers with the guy from number 3. You just ask people. It’s actually quite simple really.

Although, there’s always the possible confusion of whether something is a date or not, especially if it involves the opposite sex. As most people know, I’m mostly oblivious to this, mainly due to 1) having been in a relationship for so long, I have no idea of any dating etiquette and 2) I have lots of male friends so it’s normal for me to go for beers with men and it not mean anything. Which, as we know in the past has led to a few interesting/awkward/hilarious encounters. There’s always a story.

Oh, and for all the people that keep saying I should go on internet dating, the answer is still the same: NO. Or tinder. Although, I’ve got another blog and might have to do another tinder social experiment – although we all know how the New Zealand tinder experience worked out (interesting), but it will purely be an experiment and not for me. Because you see, internet dating to me is actively looking for a relationship. Which I’m not. Not at all. Still. If something happens or occurs naturally, then that’s fine. But I’m not looking, and I don’t want to go man shopping. I don’t want to read what is essentially a personality CV and shortlist potential applicants like some kind of job application. Seems a bit clinical and shallow. And tinder, well, I quite liked the swiping, that was fun, but I didn’t like it when people starting messaging me. Which is kind of the whole point. So yeah, it’s not going to happen. Oh, and I know it suits/works for some people, and there’s loads of success stories, so please don’t think I’m dissing it for other people AT ALL. It’s just not for me.

I guess in a way it’s not actually that dissimilar to meeting up with people I’ve met online in one form or another (twitter etc.), but the fundamental difference is that I’m meeting up with people on a non-romantic level, no awkward dating scenario where you’re checking each other out to see if you are anything like your profile, or whether you’d see a future with that person (yes, some people DO do that on a first date apparently, how you can tell I don’t know) or whether you want to sleep with them. Obviously that still happens in some cases, but it’s not the obvious primary objective, and certainly not mine. We all know much of a commitment-phobe I am now, haha.

My friend Sam is doing pretty similar stuff to me (maybe not the tinder experiment, ha) as she’s just emigrated to Brisbane with her other half, but I think she’s making a much better job at it and getting involved in so many more things. My effort is a bit piss poor compared to hers really, haha. But I’m doing it at my own pace. I keep reminding myself that I live here now and have plenty of time to do everything. When I first moved here I felt like I should do ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. I forgot that I wasn’t here for just a short while, think I was still in a travelling mindset where everything is temporary and I’d be moving on sometime soon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling with thinking long term, and still can’t plan anything too far in advance, and still don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I can relax a little bit. Just living in the moment. Just like my tattoo tells me.

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