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.

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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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Bob the Bike.

Let me introduce you to Bob, my new road bike. He’s going to get me from London to Paris in a couple of months. I luuurve him. ❤

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I do a fair bit of running and exercise generally but if I’m going to ride that distance in that time I need to do some training and get the miles in my legs before May, I can’t just rely on sheer determination and stupidity this time (as much as I’d like to, and just spend my weekends sitting eating ice cream). I did a lot of riding last summer after I got back on my MTB but I’ve not done any for a while and I’ve never had a road bike so I need to get ON it. So, yesterday was the first opportunity I’ve had to get out on Bob since picking him up a couple of weeks ago. It was a beaut of a sunny day and I had a free afternoon so I had no excuse (and I wasn’t about to throw myself down my building stairs to create one).

I’ll start with reporting on the end result: BLOODY marvellous, it felt soooo good to be back out there on a bike and it was pretty frickin awesome to see Mr Sunshine for a day. I also finished with bruises, grazes and my legs felt like they were made from strawberry jelly. Oh and of course, the mildly bruised derrière (Bob is a mean lean cycling machine; not a lot of padding).

Two main reasons for this: 1) I forget I live in a hilly place now and 2) Bob has clippy pedals. I’ll expand….

Didn’t really have a route in mind – I just biked out of Cheltenham along Shurdington Road and thought I’d head out that way for a couple of hours. Didn’t realise until I looked at a map after I’d got back that I headed straight out to into the Cotswolds and ALL THE HILLS. 1716 feet (523m) of elevation to be precise. I’d planned for a nice gentle flat couple of hours out to get me back into it. Not 3 fuck off hills. However, as we know hills also equal amazing views and a sense of achievement so I felt pretty rad when I got to the top of each one. Probably a bit like how Rocky felt when he made it to the top of the steps. Yeah, just like that. Apart from I didn’t run up and jump around, I wobbled around on Bob while trying slow down and upclip my feet (more on the clippy pedals later) at the same time, silently cheering each time I managed to not end up in a mangled heap on the floor (which, incidentally, I managed a higher ratio of – again, another silent cheer).

Riding up the hills through woods in the sunshine with beautiful, green, hilly countryside views reminded me so much of riding around in Tasmania last year. I had such an amazing adventure doing that (read about it here if you want), it really made me smile so much to be reminded of it. The pain of the hills but the rewards at the top, the sense of freedom and time; like there is no where else to be, and nothing to do or think about apart from what you’re doing right there and then. I still don’t quite understand the gears on Bob, so the hills were pretty hard work, but I think that was also just my legs not being used to them, rather than that I couldn’t find a lower (higher?) gear. I’ve got no idea whether there are any hills on the London to Paris route, but I guess that riding up hills during a bit of training will all help. Can’t hurt anyhow. Well, actually, it will – THIGH BURN – but you know what I mean.   Of course, what goes up must come down. I cycled UP three hills on my made up route, but only DOWN one. This felt quite unfair, until I realised the way down was a 1:6 (translation: fucking steep – put it this way, I wouldn’t want to bike UP it). So, MUCH fun, MUCH speed and a few hairy moments. Got to try Bob’s brakes out. Conclusion: could be better (hence the few hair raising moments).

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And that leads me onto the clippy pedals. I bought Bob from a nice chap in Bromsgrove who had decided he preferred MTB to road bikes and so couldn’t get on with Bob. Poor Bob, discarded after just a few miles, unwanted. Lucky I came along and managed rescue Bob and his clippy pedals and nice chap’s shoes; shoes that are too big for me (I haven’t got man feet). I haven’t managed to get any of my own yet so decided they would do for the first couple of rides out. So, imagine this; first time on a bike for a while, first time on a bike with clippy pedals in shoes that are too big, and first time on a bike with weird gears that are also the brakes. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Ha.

I spent a fair while trying to figure out how the clippy pedals worked. Leant Bob up against the wall, wiggling my feet around. Managed to clip in but could I clip out? Big fat NO. Even leaving the shoe clipped in and me sat on the ground wiggling it around with my hands I couldn’t do it. Neighbour Jill found it quite amusing, but was no help. Of course, I resorted to doing what I should have done in the first place: consulted the internet. “OK Google, unclipping cleats”. (Aside: bloody love OK Google. Talk to me.) Thank you, cheery American man on YouTube who shows how to unclip from pedals in one easy step. Tried it while leant against the wall. Just about got it, OK, I nearly fell into the flower bed, but panic meant my foot came unclipped like magic before I toppled over. Hurrah! I just figured I’d get used to it. One day.

So, I actually did alright. To start with. I’m near the edge of town so not many junctions until I got out on the open road, and the traffic light gods were smiling on me that day. In fact, although a bit wobbly, I managed to unclip each time I stopped the few times I stopped to take some pictures, admire the view or silently cheer the fact I got to the top of a hill without dying. OK, some of them were using the new panic-unclipping technique, but I didn’t end up on the floor. Until a junction about 2 miles away from home on the way back. Ironically, I’d already unclipped one side (I was a pro by now) but I ended up toppling the other way as I over balanced. As any fall as an adult, it hurt (unless drunk, those falls never hurt). And it’s also surprising. Ever notice that, falling over as an adult? One minute you’re upright, one minute you’re on the floor wondering what the hell happened in a mild state of shock. I landed on my elbow and it’s all grazed. Bob landed on top of me, giving me a massive bruise and lump on the side of my knee. Very giving. Obviously, I jumped back up, congratulating myself for getting a fall over and done with (it was bound to happen, I daresay there will be more to come too) as well as entertaining the stream of motorists driving by (I would have laughed). I like to think I fell and splattered on the ground in style.

Decided to call it a day after nearly 19 miles (I’d done a nice round trip) as I’d been out for just under a couple of hours which is what I planned for a nice gentle intro ride. Now, I know I had hills in that ride, but that’s not that fast. OK, I wasn’t really pushing myself but still. It’s making me realise just how far and how fast I will have to bike in May. If I didn’t go any faster that I did yesterday, I’d have to bike continuously for about 20 hours to cover the distance. So, the 4 hours on the ferry takes that to 24 hours. I’d just do it. But no time to stop, no time to eat, no time to go for a piss. Not realistic.

Eeeep.

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Keep smiling. It’ll be alreet.

Challenge number 1.

London to Paris in 24 hours. On a bike. Yep, that’s what I’ve signed up for in May. What’s that all about then, I hear you cry. Erm, well, I’m not actually too sure myself. It sounded like fun so I signed up. I’ll deal with the details later. And yes, this is actually true, I don’t know too much right now. I know it’s about 320km, I will get about 4 hours sleep if I’m lucky and I have to have a road bike, but that’s about it. My ex-husband always used to say I was a bit of an idealist and a bit of a dreamer, I guess he was kind of right. But, I know it will all be OK. I know I’ll be able to do it, because I’ll give it my bloody best shot. I figure I managed to cycle 600km around Tasmania without any training, minimal preparation and a heavy backpack and tent; so this should be a bit of a doddle (ha!). I didn’t have a road bike until last weekend, and haven’t had chance to get out and about on it yet but I will be starting a bit of training soon. I’ve still got a few months until May, right? It might take me that long to get used to the weird shoe-pedal clip things that came with my bike.

It’s the first thing I’ve signed up for this year so far. There’s other stuff, but that’s all probably a bit later. This just sounded like fun. Loads of fun. Something a bit different, a bit of a challenge and a way to see a bit of France. Not seen much of it yet so cycling through some of it should mean I get a good look. Anyone who’s done any cycle touring will know that it’s one of the absolute best ways to travel and see a country. There’s 200 places in the sportive so I’ll also get to meet some new people and hopefully have a laugh while doing it. Plus it’s May, it should be decent weather. Might get a tan. Also will get outside; which, as I hate sitting inside on the sofa for too long, will be wonderful. I get fidgety, as people who have ever tried to watch a film with me can testify.

And now I’ve got a road bike, I could possibly look at doing some triathalons later in the year. Just need to have a go at open water swimming first to see how I feel about it. Not really done much of that, barring the lake swim in The Wolf Run, but not sure that counts. We’ll see.

This year, now I’m back in the UK and in one place for a bit, is all about seeing what I can do. Trying a few challenges and carrying on saying yes to stuff. Getting back to being fit and seeing just how far I can push myself. Why? Why not? Life is for living, and it’s how I want to live it. This kind of stuff, this kind of mini adventure, is what puts a smile on my face and makes my heart happy. I don’t want to stand on the sideline of life.

If anyone fancies it, join in here: http://www.londontoparissportive.com/.

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