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.

 

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Follow the plan.

Or not. If you know me, you’ll know I hate to plan. Which is a bit surprising coming from someone who used to be a Project Manager. But, as Matt (my old boss) will agree, I didn’t really like to do it/wasn’t that good at it back then either. I’m not sure I ever produced a Gantt chart in 4 years, haha.

I just can’t get my head around having stuff planned in, months in advance. Having things in the diary for next year. Next year? Because my main thought is that I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year. Mainly, that I don’t know where I will be, as I’ve spent the last 4 years all over the world, it’s now weird for me to think that I’ll be in one place for any length of time. Itchy feet syndrome if you will.

I wasn’t always like this. In my previous life I did plan. I had stuff planned in for the next year, sometimes even two years ahead. Back then, I didn’t think that I’d be doing something different or living in a different place. In fact, I had my whole life planned out. I knew where I’d be living, who I’d be living with, what I’d be doing and how my life would pan out over the next 20 years at least. Which, well, it just wasn’t me as it turns out. I gave it a go, but eventually I just couldn’t do it. I remember saying to my mum when I was about 19 that I didn’t want to get a mortgage because it would tie me down, and I didn’t want to be tied down. I felt back then similar to how I feel now, but without so much wanderlust. 3 years after that conversation I had a mortgage. My feelings hadn’t changed but I’d got onto the this-is-what-you-do-in-life treadmill with someone who didn’t have the same wanderlust and events just took over.

Now, well, ha, it’s a different story. Can’t do it. You ask me to do something next year? Forget it. Ask me nearer the time.

I love not having everything planned in and laid out. I like spontaneity. Opportunity. The chance to try new stuff.

I’ve found out that things happen off the back of other stuff. One door leads to another (and other wanky sayings). But it’s true. Keep your mind open, be curious and it can take you anywhere. If you’ve got a diary full with stuff you already do then where’s the chance to do something different? To say yes to random shit that might pop up? To quote Henry Ford (or Mark Twain, both are attributed to this saying) “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”. Which, if that’s what you want, then that’s fine. But it’s not what I want.

Someone mentioned it could be perceived as waiting to see if something better comes along. I thought about whether this was the case for me. But it’s not. For me it’s about running with the wind, following my heart. Doing what I feel like doing near the time, and not feeling obliged to do things. To do stuff on a whim or in a heartbeat. To be curious and see what’s round the next corner or over the hill. To never stop exploring and embrace the unknown.

I love, love, love the fact I have no idea what’s happening a few months down the line. Next year where will I be? No idea. It’s exciting.

People say to me, but don’t you like having stuff to look forward to? But I actually do, I tell them. I look forward to every day, because I spend my days doing shit I love to do (OK, so some days more than others but in general, every day is pretty groovy). Fuck spending your life doing stuff you don’t want to do. I don’t get it. Why spend 50 weeks of the year looking forward to 2 weeks (for example)?

And it’s not like I don’t have any plans. I’ve got loads of shit going on, all stuff that might lead to other stuff (irons in fires and all that) but all stuff that could take me down a few different paths. Because I’ve also learnt not to try to over analyse or narrow stuff down. So for example, if I want to do something in life I won’t have a specific goal in mind, more an area or an idea. And rather than having a narrow set of things to do to achieve it, I’ll just do lots of little things that might help me in that way. Because that way, I still keep options open but am still working towards going in the right direction. Because I also might change my mind. And that’s OK too.

I guess that’s why things with The Marine worked well, no commitment or expectation. And no long term plans. In fact I remember when he said in November about doing something in February and I was like “Woah, we don’t know where we’ll be then”. I guess it was inevitable it was the beginning of the end. I know my way of thinking isn’t for everyone, and I know it puts a lot of people off, as they’re after different things. It’s been the downfall of of a few potential relationships over the last couple of years. But it’s not to say I won’t commit to anyone, it’s just got to be right. And let’s face it, The Marine arrangement wouldn’t work with anyone else, it was a bit unique. One day I might meet someone that shares similar views. Or more importantly, doesn’t mind or actually embraces how I think or live. I’d like that. Just don’t ask me to live in a semi with a dog, spawn some kids and watch Eastenders with you.

It’s kind of trying to live for the moment too. Just enjoying the here and now and not looking forward or back too much. Easier said than done, I know. But, life is short and all that. So the small amount of plans I do have are all with some longer term ideas in mind. Some of them are written down, some of them are in my head. Some may happen, some won’t, and some might. It all depends on how I feel at the time, and which way the wind is blowing.

Right now I feel like shit with a cold, so the most I’m planning is to rest up and eat plenty of vegetables. That’ll do for now.

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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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