Day #45 14.02.16

I wasn’t sure what my photo a day was going to be today; probably a picture from a run because I’d planned on going for a long(ish) run because it was a beautiful day with the sun shining and birds singing. It certainly wasn’t going to be anything Valentine-related as I’m not into that and think it’s a crock of shit.

As it happens, circumstances took over and I ended up walking into a door, forehead first, pretty hard (the door jumped out at me, honest). Plans for a run went out the window as I didn’t think it would be the best idea, especially as my head started to feel a bit woozy. So I went to watch the rugby instead.

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I’ve ended up with a bit of a big bump which will probably turn into a big bruise but no major damage done as far as I can tell.

But, it did remind me of that phrase “I walked into a door” that is often used as an excuse if someone’s been used as a punch bag. Which then made me think of domestic abuse. Which then made me think about how ironic that was on Valentines Day. Which made me think about Valentines Day.

It’s hard to say anything about V Day when you’re single without people thinking you’re just bitter and jealous that you’re not in a relationship. As many times as I (and other single people) would say that’s not the case, people still won’t believe you. Well, think what you think, but it’s really not the case.

The thing that really gets me about February 14th is that it’s sold as the most romantic day of the year and that if you don’t do anything if you have a partner then you are an unromantic twat that should be strung up by your small and curlies. Commercialism at it’s worst.

It demands that you should do something romantic, which is generally send someone flowers and chocolates. Buy things! All the things! So is there any thought in that? Is it really so thoughtful to follow the masses and give a generic gift only because there is a day in the year that stipulates that you should? Then social media is full of gift receivers posting proud pictures of the gifts they have been given, adding further fuel to the massive keeping-up-with-the-Joneses fire that is raging within society today, and slotting on the life-is-perfect filter. Because you know, we all know that there’s often the hidden underneath. Underneath the “look, I have such an amazing partner because they got me this massive bunch of flowers” there’s the little fact that everyone knows the rest of the year they’re an absolute twat.

And don’t have pity for me because I’m single on this day of the year (I’m happy being single). Don’t tell me that my perfect man is ‘out there for me somewhere’ (I don’t believe in ‘The One’ etc.). Don’t tell me to go and have a drink to feel better (it’s patronising and arrogant). I don’t feel sad that I’m single. Chances are I’d rather be single forever than swap it with some of the relationships that I see out there.

Because you know, the other 364 days of the year are the ones that count. The little things that mean something. The little thoughtful gestures that people do in relationships just because you are you, not because some calendar celebration tells them to. The cup of tea they bring you in the morning. The meal they cook because you’ve had a long day at work and can’t face cooking. The flowers they get you because they are your favourite and they’re in season. The notes they leave in your lunch box if they make you sandwiches. The surprise present they get you for your birthday. The playlist they make you of your favourite songs. The card they give you that says they love you, just because they can. The film or sports game they sit through with you because they know it means a lot. Not cheating on you. Not name calling and putting you down. Not embarrassing you in front of other people and belittling you. Not raising a hand in violence. Not telling you that it’s your fault, that you provoked them.

Because that’s what relationships should be about. Love. People being thoughtful and kind and generous with their time and spirit. Not necessarily money, and not just on one day of the year. If you’re in a shit relationship, one bunch of roses and a box of milk tray isn’t going to solve it. Don’t gloss over the cracks, don’t be misled.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know as much as anyone that life can get in the way. Day to day life sometimes doesn’t make much time for a lot of that, and for a lot of people today is an excuse and a reminder to recognise what they have in a busy world, and isn’t just about buying a box of chocolates. I love seeing happy pictures and examples of love. But how about all year round? On that rainy Saturday in April or gloriously sunny day in July.

Everyone wants to love, and be loved. But that doesn’t have to always be by a partner. Family and friends do a good job you know. Most importantly though, start with yourself. How can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself?

Thinking about the whole reason I’m writing this post – the “walking into a door” analogy. Domestic abuse is a whole other ball game and a whole other blog post or two so I won’t write too much about it right now. But I wonder how much Valentines Day triggers instances of violence. Or a respite and period of remorse? How many people behave shockingly over the year but hope today will earn them points to save up and cash in.

Did you know 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes?* And on average about seven women and two men are killed by their current or former partner every month in England and Wales**. Pretty scary stuff – but sadly all too common. Don’t get caught up in the chocolates and roses. If the 364 are unhappy, don’t be swayed by the 1. Everyone deserves to be with someone that thinks they’re special and treats them with respect all year round, not a cold day in February once a year.

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And if you’ve ever been used as a punch bag and had to use the “I walked into a door” excuse, then please, please, please get help and get out of that relationship. It’s not healthy. Please don’t make excuses – it’s not normal. You deserve better. Speak to someone. It can be done. Get help:

 

*(Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14)

**bbc.co.uk article, 22.05.14

 

Thoughts of an injured person.

Been thinking about this a bit while I was shuffling around with a broken rib. I wasn’t obviously injured. I didn’t have crutches, or any bandages, or a wheelchair or any stuff like that. But I was slow. I couldn’t walk fast (or really that far). I couldn’t lift things like I could normally. I couldn’t hop around or change direction quickly.

And it made me realise how often in normal life that’s what we do. Or I do, and the majority of others. Like in train stations. Or walking down the street. Or in shops or cafes.

And it made me quite concious when I couldn’t. I felt like I was holding people up. I could’t speed up to cross the road at crossings or if a car had stopped, or hurry through a door that someone had held. I could imagine people tutting, or perhaps whispering ‘hurry up’ or ‘get a bloody move on’ in their head. Now, they might not have been. I wouldn’t, but I know people do. I’ve heard them.

And so you have to wonder, how many other of those slow people you might come across are injured. Or maybe have a condition where they can’t move as fast or do all the things most people take for granted. And that’s the thing. We just don’t know. Just the same as we don’t know what kind of day people are having, or what’s on their mind. They might be fighting an inner battle that we know nothing about. That’s why they might be a bit short, or preoccupied or rude.

So don’t get angry or irritated.

Be kind. Be patient. Be friendly.

Hobart hobo.

Hobart is Tasmania’s capital. As I’ve said before, I fell completely and madly in love with the city.

Why did I like it so much? I’m not sure. Everything about it I think. It felt like a small city. Everyone knew everyone. When I first got there it felt massive. Busy. Quite noisy. A million miles away from the small villages and towns I’d been to over the previous two weeks. But, it’s not. It’s actually really small. It’s got a population of just under 215,000. For a capital city, that’s not a lot (for a comparison, Lincoln has a population of just under 120,000).

Maybe because it reminded me a bit of Lincoln. The size, the layout, the small-town feel. I was lucky enough to stay with a few different people who lived there and got a good feel for real life there. And it felt a bit like my old life back when I lived in Lincoln. The friends nearby, the things to do, the walks, the old part of town. It feels very homely and cosy, just like I think Lincoln is.

It also reminded me a bit of Cape Town, my most favourite city in the world. Mainly because it was similar in that the city stretched from a beautiful harbour to the foothills of a giant mountain, which was always there, always present. Great for getting your bearings and knowing where you were.

It’s got a great laid back feel, lots of arty places around Salamancer Place (the place to be) and the harbour, with oodles of history on every corner. And the great thing was that there are loads of information boards telling you all about it. So I didn’t have to go to a museum to find it out, the info was there as I wandered around. And wander around I did. Lots. It’s a great place for that. You stumble across everything, because it’s just not that big and most things are in walking distance. And if not, then it’s easy to get buses or boats to where you want to go. I was lucky, as I also got taken around and showed a lot by all the great people I stayed with. Yep, more stranger kindness.

Quick run down of some of the stuff I did:

  • Ate the best fish and chips (well, nearly – the best fish and chips I’ve ever had was in Simonstown in South Africa but these were close) fresh from the sea.
  • Bush walked and climbed up Mount Wellington and Mount Nelson. Amazing views.

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  • Ambled around Battery Point, the Bailgate of Hobart. If I ever live in Hobart, that’s where I want to live, in one of the little old cottages there.

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  • Went to MONA, the Museum of Modern and New Art. Very ‘interesting’. Even if you think you don’t like art, you should still go visit, well worth it. Even just for the approach from the ferry which feels like you’re pulling up to a Bond villiain’s lair.

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  • Strolled around Salamancer Market. Loads of different types of stalls all crammed in Salamancer Place on a Saturday. You name it, it’s there. I will always remember the salmon sausages in foccacia served from an old retro caravan, and the stall offering free fudge for tasting. Great atmosphere and no tat in sight!
  • Took a day trip to Port Arthur, the historic penal colony. Beautiful place, learnt lots about Tasmania’s history (from way back when it was called Van Diemen’s Land) and was entertained in bucketloads by our driver/tour guide Mark who oinked his pig (not a euphemism) to get us to be quiet, and whose catchphrases were “eyes to the front” and “cabin crew prepare for landing”. One of those you had to be there tours.

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  • Read the local papers and stayed with local people. Got a real different view on life there, especially around things like attitudes to Australia Day and stuff that’s important to Aussies.
  • Watched Mystery Road, and Australian film that was on the TV one night. For some reason I  wanted to watch an Aussie film while in Oz. Not quite sure why. And still not sure why. It was weird, a bit rubbish and filmed in the same gritty way as a lot of Australian films seem to be but entertaining nonetheless.
  • Went to the Cascade Brewery and drank beer with Marc (the other cycle tourist I met from Canada). I’d recommend the Cascade Draught. You can do a brewery tour but we decided to just sit and drink beer.

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  • Took a dog for a walk along Kingston Beach. Not just a random dog, but a dog called Biscuit. I knew his owners, don’t worry.
  • Saw the end point of the Sydney to Hobart boxing day yacht race (judging box). Interesting fact: I now know someone who will be taking part in that race this year. Connected I am.

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  • Walked around Kangaroo Bluff (and saw a wedding ceremony) and along Bellerive beach. Walking barefoot along the beach made my feet ache. I clearly haven’t spent enough time barefoot for a while. In flip flops yes, but not barefoot.

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  • Went on stage at the Theatre Royal, the oldest continually operating theatre in Australia. No, not acting (I’m sure my family remember my not-so-good performances in school plays. It’s not my forte.) but for a look round when it was closed. A stage is a lot deeper than I thought. Interesting fact: It actually looks just the same as the Theatre Royal in Lincoln.

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  • Driving round the Cygnet loop with Margaret, my wonderful host who I met in Thailand halfway up a vertical climb up a cliff face in a monsoon at Railay beach. We ate AMAZING cake at the Red Velvet Lounge and saw lots of scarecrows in the villages.

I stayed with some awesome people. Rob, Margaret and Ross in Kingston (who, as mentioned previously, I met in Thailand) who took me in, fed and watered me, did my washing, showed me around and who were just totally amazing and generous. Very comfy bed here too, it was absolute bliss after 2 weeks of camping! I started and ended my stay in Hobart with them, with them dropping me and my bike off at the airport.

Greg, Dorothy and Mary, cycle tourists who offer a place to stay in their beautiful historic traditional house to other cyclists. They took me out bush walking and made me feel like one of the family. They had the best muesli for brekkie and they fed me lots of vegetables which makes me very happy. I got to meet many more interesting people through them too, and also tasted the best ever home made lemon curd. Man, that stuff was INCREDIBLE.

Sandy, Lesley, James and Erica who I met in Freycinet National Park earlier on in my trip and who lived on the Eastern Shore. I got to stay the ‘other’ side of the Tasman Bridge, and drank lots of fabulous red wine with them. They also took me to their friend’s 50th birthday BBQ on Mt Nelson where again I was made to feel like one of the family. And eat great cake.

It’s the experiences like this and the people I have met that made it so hard to leave Tassie. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place filled with lots of wonderful, wonderful people and they all made my stay in Hobart one of the best couple of weeks I have had. They all made me feel so welcome, and I actually felt very sad to leave.

I still, even now when I’ve had time to think about it, can’t get over the kindness that I experienced in Tasmania. It was just incredible, and I just didn’t expect anything like that. I’m not quite sure what I have done to deserve it, but I know that all these experiences just make me want to do the same. To pass it on. One of the things I have in common with all of the people I have met is that we’ve all travelled in some way at some time or another. Have all experienced similar and want to pass it on. But, you don’t need to have travelled to spread the love. To be generous and kind.

Let’s pass it on, people. Start the revolution.

The Boston Marathon.

I’ve been in two minds about whether to post about the explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday. There’s been endless news coverage, and lots and lots of tweets on Twitter. Alex and I were watching events unfold on the TV last night. It was just horrific. I had to stop watching in the end. My heart goes out to the victims and their families and everyone there. As a runner, it feels a bit too close to home. At an event like the ones I go to. With people like me. OK, so I’m not a running blogger, or part of a running club, but I am a runner. I tweet with other runners. I chat to other runners. I post about running. I’ve helped people get into running. I’m part of the running community. A community that was hit hard by yesterday’s events. A community in shock.

But as we have [sadly] seen many times in the last few years, the human spirit will not be broken. These attacks will not change people’s behaviour; we are defiant. Will not let events like this stop things from happening; for if that were to happen then they have won. Immediately after the explosion, people ran towards the blast to help others, disregarding their own safety and the possibility of more explosions. Runners have been brought together and will not stop running. Runners at the London Marathon this weekend have pledged to run over the line with their hands over their hearts as a tribute. Millions of tweets of support, sympathy have been posted. Kindness from strangers. It just shows that the world is still full of good.

I will never be able to comprehend what would make anyone want to do that. But I guess that’s the point. Most people can’t. And that’s what makes the world still full of good.