Thursday, 30 October 2014

Going home

It's not easy, this going home business.  For 14 years I had a regular journey, Clayton Manchester to Eccles and I knew it. I knew many variants, I had favourites, I had routes suitable for different weather conditions, for different times of day, for different whims and fancies.  Now I don't.

I have many many options, and I'm trying to avoid driving to work so I don't learn the cycling routes by repeating a driving commute to work.  The train just doesn't offer the same ability to explore where roads go.  So I'm trying really hard to become happy with my cycle routes, despite the fact I seem to have started trying to learn them and explore while it's a bit wintery and the nights and mornings are dark.

I've ridden in behind a friend twice. I didn't enjoy the A6, although admittedly I couldn't get lost on that route either.  I've meandered home following the bike computer's "Surprise Me" route, and it was rather wonderful and glorious, but it did take two hours.

Today though, I have boldly dared to use cyclestreets, a website thingy specialising in cycling journeys.  You put in your start and end post code and it gives you three routes, the quickest, a balanced and the quietest.  I have to say it works.  It actually works.  It doesn't take you to stupid places unless you chose the quietest route in which case you only have yourself to blame.  The quickest route this morning was free from trauma.  Completely free.

The quietest route, though, this evening involved quite a bit of unlit off road, and even with lights, good lights, if you don't know quite where you are, or where you're going it's a bit unnerving.  I did, however, attract a Welsh guy also commuting who escorted me effectively along rutted muddy winding woodland single track, and all was indeed rather good.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Moving Times

I moved house.  Left the old house, which somehow wasn't overladen with memories by the time I left it.  The hoovering put paid to that, it was that thorough.

The new house is, well, not just mine but most definitely not Dave & mine.  It feels kind of big and has an old and solid feel to it, at the same time as feeling bright and spacey.  It's suitably kind of shabby too, with occasional glimpses of quality.  Permanence.  The whole thing feels permanent, it's a thing of its own in space and time, and probably will be long after I've gone. Reassuringly solid.

I realise it has four storeys.  A normal two bedroom house but with a loft conversion and a cellar.  It seems to me that everything which the removal men put in the cellar is destined for the loft which means there are a lot of trips up three sets of stairs.  It properly feels four storey during these early settling in days.

It's helping me to realise an ambition too.  Trying to find a way to not have to drive to work.  I have a train and I have a bike.  Even train journey days count as exercise twice a day, with nearly 4 miles in walking to be done either end of the journey, outwards and return.  I suspect fitness may find me.

There's a firm ground to put my feet on, hopefully I'll get them to stay put sometime for long enough for that to happen.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Another goodbye

I don't know if this is a first goodbye or a last goodbye or simply another goodbye.

I buried my pet this evening.  Poppy, the last guinea pig.  She's buried next to the first, Phyllis.  Phyllis was a big ginger pig.  She moved in with me in 2000 along with her blind cage mate, Rosie.  Two beautiful girls passed to me by a work colleague who didn't want to part with them but had to.  Phyllis was 8 years old when she died in 2005.  She was, for me, the guinea pig who kind of represents the others.  I still dream about her.  There's not one guinea pig related dream which Phyllis doesn't appear in. The guardian angel of all those who came after her.

Poppy too lived a long life, possibly seven years old in the end.  For nearly two years she lived alone because, for me, she was the last pig.  She lived much longer than I expected, her cage mates were the same age.  She was the opposite of Phyllis.  I hardly heard her squeak and she was timid not bold, black and white, not ginger, smooth haired, not Abyssinian.  I did my best for her, other than find her a friend for those lonely years.  Spent more on vet treatment than it would cost to acquire three more guinea pigs this year alone.

So, the last pig is buried in the garden.  It's the last goodbye.

The garden which I will be leaving in the next month as I move house.  It's a spot I don't think she'll be disturbed in, regardless of whatever work is done, whether it's paved over or reshaped.  I think she'll rest in peace.  And somehow it's the first of the goodbyes to this house.  It signifies change in a way nothing else has, not the re-painting in neutral colours, not the sold sign, not the half packed boxes in the spare bedroom, not the relentless clearing out of stuff.  This truly is change because the guinea pigs have gone.  It's the first goodbye.

But this house has seen a lot of goodbyes, and there are more to come, and I just hope I can do those properly, do them meaningfully and finally with dignity and respect.  There have been too many goodbyes said here, and this is another in the one too many stakes.  I shall miss the feeling of having life in the house, the constant tiny movements and noises and the company.  Goodbye Poppy, you're already missed.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Being her

House buying and selling is turning me into a stress bound monster I don't like very much.  I cannot believe what I've given it permission to do to me.  That has to stop.  I want to become the person I want to be, and trust me, this mental case is not she.

So trying to chuck it all to one side, and let be what it'll be, realising that there's some things I just can't do anything about.  Other people for the most part.

What I'd like to be is a fit, healthy, laughing person who giggles with her friends, is kind and warm and good company.  I'm always a work in progress ...

Friday, 20 June 2014

Something stupid

Oddly as I get older I find it easier to confess I like Robbie Williams.  I never had a problem admitting my liking for Gary Barlow, but Robbie?  Come on, Robbie?  But the lilting sound of Something Stupid melts my heart.

You know, I'm a fortunate woman.  Opportunities offer themselves to me.  I got to marry the love of my life, and I got to do the most important thing in the world for him, be next to him for 9 months while he approached death.  I got to love him until death did us part.  That's pretty amazing, he was pretty amazing, and for a while, I was pretty amazing too.

I got to work in a job people would have given their eye teeth for.  I know this.  Some told me.  And now I'm in another job which again is the quiet envy of a few particularly weird obsessive people.  And I'll take that.

I get to live in a place which people want to be in, and I can't fault it.  Except it isn't somewhere good to ride my bike, so I'm moving to somewhere that is.  I'm doing the thing where if I feel scared, I'm substituting the word with "excited".  I've already tried that one on my mum.  She bit.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Under pressure

Today is brought to you by Queen and Freddie Mercury, potentially in a white suit caring for the people on the edge of the night.

I like to sustain the pretence that I am in control of the important things in life, my choices, making my chances, driving things along.  So it figures that I am hating the process of house selling.  I am hating that having done everything I can to help myself (there has been a lot of emulsion in my life this last week) all I can do now is wait, and the dream I have for myself depends on whether someone wants to buy my house and whether someone else wants to buy the house I have an eye on. I'm not loving this very much.  It's starting to ooze out in my dreams and manifest itself in some typical anxiety symptoms.

In fact, I'm so aware of the anxiety and stress in my life that I've stopped using Strava for all my rides.  How on the earth riding my bike managed to change from something which relieves stress into something where I put pressure on myself to get faster I just don't know.  But Strava is now reserved for occasions when my sanity is intact enough that I get on with riding without caring.

Under pressure ...

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

My story

I had some plastering done this week, and the plasterer, aged 45, family man (as they say in the best tabloids) was curious about the miscellany of bicycles scattered around the house.  He was also kind enough to say there wasn't an ounce of fat on me.  Oddly, though, that did not endear him to me but I digress.

He asked me about my riding, lots of questions. How far do I go, do I ride, like, once a week, isn't it weird  how you don't see many women on bikes.  So somehow I ended up explaining and at the same time as explaining I was remembering.

It sounds like a sob story but it isn't.  My family didn't have a car.  There were multiple reasons for this, and the last one on the list, although relevant, wasn't the most important, that one was money.  The other reasons were the curious thing where my dad didn't have a driving licence.  It was years before my mum found out that something she thought had been a choice of his, not to learn to drive, wasn't. In fact, he had learned, he took his test, and on failing it, just stopped, gave up.  My mum had a licence but zero confidence in her abilities.  She came from a world where the expectation was that the man would drive, and the little woman might do the odd shopping jaunt now and then, but wasn't expected to be the main driver.  The other reason was, in fact, ethics, and the environment.  Even back then, in the 1960s, 1970s, my parents were passionate about their beliefs.  They believed we should be walking, or cycling or taking public transport because it felt like the right thing to do, in terms of fitness, in terms of environment, innately, they felt it was the right way to do things.  We were the kind of family where if there was an organic, wholesome way to do things, that's right where we'd be.  My mum made her bread by hand all through my childhood, our clothes were recycled pass me downs.  We didn't waste stuff, and we didn't load ourselves with unnecessary possessions.  A car would have been unnecessary.  As would more than one bike apiece.  Hmm.

Anyway, as I explained to him, to me a bike was transport from the age of 10.  That just stayed the case, a combination of bikes and public transport saw me through a lot of years, particularly when I was a student in London then worked in London where public transport actually functions, lots of it, runs regularly, frequently, and goes to places which you want to go.  Amazing, huh?  I told him it felt like flying, that at times you do want to take your feet off the pedals, stick your legs out to the side and yell wheeeee as you go downhill.

I never stopped riding a bike.  I think there's some adults out there who can't picture getting back in the saddle because they stopped riding, and there is a perception that traffic is more of a problem now then it was in the 1970s.  I guess it's true to say that traffic has increased, but for city riding, it means for cycling in that it's slower moving, often queueing and it feels fairly safe to ride past stationary cars.

My answers to his other questions were that on Sunday I rode 130km, and that on a road bike 60km doesn't seem too big a deal, and that I rode nearly every day, not just once a week as he seemed to think was appropriate.

I tried to explain to him the need for more than one bike but he didn't get it.