Bicycle Race

Saturday and Sunday at the end of July, in this household, are reserved for RideLondon. Husband’s now completed his fourth 100 mile race, and on Saturday myself and the youngest joined him for the Freecycle, with 70,000 other cyclists.

To make it easier to get into and out of town with the minimum of fuss, we took three Bromptons . My husband’s love affair with these folding commuter bikes began when he won one in a contest about a decade ago. Since then, he’s picked up the other two dirt cheap at boot sales and restored them. They are huge fun to ride (though not that great on the arse, as mine still attests this morning) and, I discovered on Saturday, get raced just as often as ‘proper’ bikes do. In fact, on Saturday, after the Ladies Race in London, the Brompton World Championship was held.

It was not the best day weather wise but, I must admit, the experience of cycling past some of the Capital’s most iconic monuments was special indeed. Particularly satisfying was the ride up the Embankment, which I’ve used as fan-fiction backdrops for many things, and to imagine characters running as I cycled did give a bit of a special thrill. In the end we did 15 miles (including getting to and from the car which we parked near the Tower of London.) I’m going to do this every year from now on, because honestly I never need an excuse to be in London.

This year’s medal for my husband is particularly special: it was his best finish so far, and he’s now very close to breaking the six hour mark for the ride:

This year I could follow him around the course too, thanks to a microchip on his bike. It’s amazing how technology has changed since the ride began in 2013, and I have no doubt that will further improve next year. I’m really proud of him every time he completes this, but this one is particularly awesome.

Here’s to taking part in 2018’s events.

Games without Frontiers

I made the effort this morning to walk to town. I’ll grant you, there may have been some Pokemon-related activities on the way, but the main reason why I went was to get a haircut. The last time anybody did anything to my hair was eighteen months ago. That’s probably going to send shock waves of terror into the hearts and minds of some of my readers, but I’ll be honest. I’m not bothered. The last time I wore makeup was probably in my early 30’s, but I never did the job well in my teens and just stopped. Many people have tried to politely suggest that it would be an idea to make me feel more comfortable and confident, but I just don’t see the point. I had thought that maybe I’d need to do this for my daughter’s benefit but she, in no uncertain terms, has no desire to wear it either.

If I were in a high profile job I might think differently, but as I’m not?

lolbye

I expect my best friend to read this post and make some comment on it when I see her tomorrow, as I’m off into London to pay her a visit. I totally and utterly ‘get’ why the rest of the world does this, why so much money gets thrown at the cosmetic industry. It just never, ever factored in what I’d wear, or how I’d act. I never relied on it or used it to cover flaws. Somewhere along the way I dispensed with the need for it. I’m not sure as I grow older I even want to hide what I am any more, or pretend I’m younger than I am by slapping some concealer on and pretending this is the right thing to do. What matters more than anything else is the health from within, confidence I can gain from other things and in different ways.

My hair needs a trim. I’m getting it coloured because it seems like a good idea. However, that’s where it ends. I think maybe I’m a failure in the beauty thing, but I really have better things to do with both money and time. I lift heavy shit now and write words.

Yup, that works just fine for me.

Station Approach

Yesterday, I failed my #28FitDays Challenge, because I decided I wanted to spend an evening with an extremely old and dear friend. It was utterly worth it, including the weight loss I’ve managed this week as a result. Sometimes, not finishing first will not negate your effort.

trains

At that point, I couldn’t remember when I’d been as happy as I was, and I now am. For that alone? Utterly worth it. Today I went and did my steps, and tomorrow I’ll do a double day to make up for the shortfall.

Because that, sometimes, is how Life works.

Iron

Yesterday was fabulous. I went to the V&A (again) but this time with a purpose: a talk on America photographer Paul Strand, who has a significant retrospective on show. I studied this guy briefly in my early 20’s but never actually grasped the significance he had not only on early ‘candid’ photography but later on portraiture and still life/abstracts. It was both exciting and revelatory, which might sound a bit odd for a guy who only took pictures, but his work in New York (which is a town I dearly love) was enough to actually get me a bit emotional. In fact, there was quite a lot of emotion, and pure unmitigated joy at what I saw, and were the catalogue for the Exhibition not the size of a small animal I would have bought one there and then. That will happen (oh yes) but for now, let me just say how brilliant it was to spend a couple of hours just indulging in an interest I love and don’t get nearly as much time as I’d like to devote to.

Then, there was a shedtonne of Japanese food, and fresh sushi I watched being prepped in an old public house in Islington, and frankly, things were just unbelievable.

sushi

Not ACTUAL Sushi, for representation porpoises only.

After that, there was an east London pub, and beer, and the realisation that people actually believe in me. That still seems odd, writing it as I just have, that I can inspire people to passion on a scale I wasn’t aware was actually possible. In fact, as I sit here with tears running down my face, it’s a concept I can’t yet totally grasp. That implicit faith that some people posses, I am good at this, has never been something I ever came to easily. I’d often be accused of arrogance in my youth, and this does often still happen with those who do not bother to take the time to understand what I really am, but the truth is it is naivety, pure and simple. I have a basic distrust in my own worth that goes back a very long time, to a series of events that effectively destroyed my confidence, and only now am I beginning to repair that damage.

Having the self-belief to express thoughts and opinions is something I’ve tried really hard with my husband to nurture in our kids, but I realise I’ve never really worked on that myself in reality: what happens is that this appears more often in my writing. It is is as if I can’t be touched in the imagined worlds I create, that criticism will never hurt when I’m ‘safe’, except the reality is that nothing ever ends up as sacred forever. I suspect one of my basic loves of photography stems from an image captured which can only be judged on the immediacy of that moment chosen. You can be critical of the choice of subject,  lighting or composition, but it is only fleeting; eye blink of a constant, flowing life in progress. Those exposures can’t hurt, because they have already passed. I also discovered, to my considerable surprise yesterday, that the organic and sensual nature of other people’s nature photography can have provoke some very strong reactions within me. That was probably the most significant moment of the day, because what that then did was create a knock-on effect in my own mind as I allowed myself to open to possibilities I’d not previously considered.

If you have never struggled with a sense of worth, all of this may sound utterly pointless and navel-gazy. Yes, it probably is, in truth, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t matter, because it so totally does. This is possibly the most important thing I have ever done for myself. Having to believe I’m capable is a fairly significant step forward.

After yesterday, my outlook is distinctly more confident.

Here With Me

Yesterday’s trip into London was as glorious as I hoped it would be, and then some.

The benefit of not getting out much, undoubtedly, is the sheer joy of being somewhere you’ve been imagining for a while and it being far, far better than you’d hoped for. In my case, that was the V&A, which I’m pretty certain I’ve not visited in my lifetime. To be honest, the place has always been intimidating: all these centuries of history, pillaged from the countries that Britain went and made ours, and then stuck in glass cages as some kind of bizarre commemoration of someone else’s notion of beauty. Except yesterday I came to understand just how fertile a place a museum can be for discussion, discourse and ultimately freedom. It helped that I had probably the best person possible accompanying me for half the day: a friend who understands the concept of curation is, at least for someone like me, an incalculable godsend.

That’s where I ended my day, but we should talk about where I started.

east_london.png

I make no secret about my constant and continued love affair with London, especially the East bit. Maybe that’s why Central and West have to work on me so hard, because they’re full of the kind of people I have absolutely no association with whatsoever. Yesterday I also did the National Portrait Gallery, thought not the Gallery itself, so I didn’t get to properly tick off a Skyfall location from the Obsessive Bond fan To Do List. Still, what this proved was that were I looking for a place to sneakily drop off a Walther, I’d do a lot worse on a Friday afternoon. I ate lunch south of the River too, because I like looking at places that I’ve used as writing inspiration. The Savoy remains a place I keep gravitating back to for location, simply because there’s nowhere quite like it in London. However, I’d be lying if I said that the V&A hasn’t become one of my new favourite places overnight. If I could live there I probably would, moving a bed from gallery to exhibition so I could sit and be inspired by new stuff every day.

They’re gonna totally let me do that, right?

pasts

Often the past can intimidate us into silence. My dad, for instance, has been scanning years worth of pictures of me and my brother/family which my brother is now almost joyously scattering all over Facebook as some badge of honour. There’s nothing I can do about this, of course, and that’s just one of those things. I choose not to remember a lot of my life for good, sound and really quite sensible reasons. An obsession with the past often isn’t the way you move forward, but I understand now that for some being able to embrace that is the means by which they can let go. I’ve already moved on. I don’t need to understand where I came from to be motivated into what I am, that’s where I exist. Your experience of the past may vary. That’s the thing about history, if you want to be remembered you don’t use other people’s to boost you, it is time to produce your own, and that’s what I’m doing.

What matters to one person will undoubtedly be of little significance to another.