Confessions of a cycling hypocrite

If you had met me just 2 years ago, you would have known that I was pretty sure I was adopted. Kinda.

My whole family were heavily into cycling, we would go on holidays with the intention of spending our days on a bike in the forest, and my dad spends more time and money on his bikes than he does on the car, which barely gets a hoover or a hose down once a year. He has done a 4 day cycle from John O Groats to Lands End, and he, my mum and my brother have cycled from London to Paris.

If you had met me 2 years a go, the chances of me accompanying them on these ventures was nil. “I’ll sit in the van with snacks and water for you” I would say. “Cycling is not my thing, why would you cycle with no purpose, but to just… cycle?”

At least that is what I thought. Until I, the self confessed King Stinge, decided paying for the bus to uni was not on, and got on a bike. Little did I know I had just opened a whole new can of worms.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I hated cycling. One time we went mountain biking at Thetford Forest and I cried tears of misery and pain around the whole of the Blue run. I barely even cheered up when I ate lunch in the cafe, which if I am honest was the only reason I agreed to cycle with them in the first place. I would moan of having a bottom so bruised it had turned black, and complain that if I kept cycling I would end up with legs like Chris Hoy, never find a husband because of them, and die alone in my old house while my 10 cats nibbled at my huge muscly legs.

K.O’ed after a leg munching sesh?

This year however, I have agreed to not just cycle on holiday, but cycle to our holiday. We are cycling to Lands End in Cornwall. For fun. Then we will travel to Polzeath (where I used to spend all my summers and love way too much) and stay there for a week. U turn is not even the phrase! My endless rants about cycling for no reason and refusing to get on a saddle have been completely undermined and I am a hypocrite. Meanwhile Papa Smole can sit there smugly as I confess I have been Smolenized and now enjoy cycling. Gah.

Madness

So why the sudden change of heart? Not sure. I guess in the last 2 years being at University has opened my mind to new things, made me meet new people and made me grow up a bit. Cycling has even become a way of getting out the house for some fresh air, not just a mode of transport for University.

Last year my bike, which was too expensive, got stolen from University despite it being tied up. I don’t think I’ve been that angry before, and I even refused to go into uni for a few days because I could not do so on my beloved bike! I really was gutted. The sun shone the next day, but I couldn’t go out on a little bike ride to enjoy it! So I bought a £30 second hand, battered bike off the back of the van. I called it the Fire Bolt. (Yes that is a Harry Potter reference)

The brakes didn’t work, and every time I changed gear my chain fell off. What is worse is it tended to fall off in the most dangerous places. Once in the middle of a busy roundabout and once in the middle of a very busy light controlled T junction. Each time I was left spinning my legs round extremely fast like an idiot, but going absolutely nowhere. Meanwhile cars would zoom past me, beep at me and generally make me feel like I was about to die. Several times I went flying through red lights (I don’t recommend it) because my breaks didn’t work.

Bike hospital. A desperate attempt to salvage The Bolt

Despite this, I still loved cycling. And the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it.

Over summer I started doing exactly what I hated before, going on long bike rides, in a loop from A to A, just for fun. Me and my mum would cycle about 20 miles, just because. I even went and watched the mountain biking at the Olympics, and loved it. What happend to me!?

Now, in one last final blow to any integrity I may still have regarding sticking to my beliefs about cycling, I am going to tell you to get on a bike to. Because it’s fun. And because it’s cheaper than getting a bus, and greener, and because you might discover you really enjoy it!

Me and Susie Q post ride clad in lycra

 

Advertisements

You’re going to university: Results day advice

First, breathe, university will be some of the best years of your life. So bite your nails, have nightmares about results papers getting lost, but most importantly keep your cool. Whatever happens, a plan will be made. Whether that plan is the same one you have always had, or is slightly different to what you thought, it’s still a plan, and it’s yours. For those of you who’s plan is university, here is my advice, from one freshly defreshed fresher to you sparking new ones!

Your life is about to change a lot, but its all good because you’re going to love it!

Expect parties, expect beers and value bottle vodkas, expect 9am lectures which you turn up to incredibly hungover and 9am lectures which you don’t even make. Expect flatmates who you might not get on with, course mates you hate and lecturers who make you want to cry. Expect 100’s of new friends and 100’s of new adds on Facebook and Twitter, but best of all expect that select group of these friends who you will now know for life, and who you will love like you knew them since they were in nappies!

Packing. Do not pack EVERYTHING, it is a nightmare getting it back home. Do pack all of your clothes, posters, favourite bed sheets, favourite pictures, a few fairy lights and the kitchen essentials. Take plastic cups and plenty of them, cups go missing like no tomorrow when you are running around to different flats for drinks, pre drinks, post drinks and hungover tea drinks, so stock up on them. Remember your laptop, yes I did forget to take mine. And for goodness sake do not be afraid to pack your teddy!

Move in, make your room your own, meet your flatmates, smile at everybody you see, and invite anyone you say more than 3 words to around your flat for pre drinks. Only half of them will turn up, but they might turn out to be those special people I was talking about earlier. Remember, everybody is in the same boat, they are all so nervous that they want to make friends with anybody and everybody, and a smile goes a long way! Then grab your flat mates and go shopping together! As stupid as it sounds, food is an excellent topic of conversation, because everybody eats it, likes it and dislikes it. Joke about your fears of tomato or your love of macaroni cheese with banana, then get home, get ready and hit the town.

For the next few weeks you will dance, drink, dance, dress up, dress down, laugh, dance. But don’t forget to eat.

Cheap food and supermarket own brands are your friend, but only to some extent! 30p bags of pasta, 37p crumpets, 31p tinned tomatos; go for it! 21p ketchup, 27p tea bags and £1 bin liners; don’t bother. The ketchup and tea will taste vile, and the bin liners will rip so easily that you have to use 3 each time, trust me I’ve tried them.

Go to your lectures. Get a feel for your new course and your new course mates, then organise a social! All get together at someones house/flat, play drinking games and go out. Many people on your course are likely to share the same sort of interests, or you wouldn’t be doing it together! You and your course mates are a team, they are the ones you can go to and moan about that assignment, that lecturer, that exam, and they will actually understand.

My course at the beginning of the year`

Don’t go home too much, get involved with university life. When will you ever get the chance to spend 3 years living, where money is allowed to be an issue, it is acceptable to go out 4 times a week, and you have so many friends around you all in one place! Once you’re finished you’ll all scatter back round the country or the world, find jobs and finally have to curb your candle stick burning. But you don’t have to worry about that yet.

Keep in touch with friends from home, ask how they are getting on, but don’t get worried if you dont speak to them every week. You are all busy, and will have plenty of time to catch up at christmas. If they truly are your friends, constant contact isn’t needed, and it makes reunions all the more exciting! Oh and keep in touch with your ma and pa. Send them a few texts a week and give them a ring. They’ve probably done a lot for you so don’t take it for granted.

More than anything, I hope this makes you excited about moving out and starting a new life at university. Because it is so exciting. It’s ok to be nervous, in fact it’s good for you. Take everything in your stride and get involved, take millions of pictures, upload them to Facebook, Twitter and send them to your family (or in some cases dont…) Take the time to look through them and laugh, cry, cringe, but most importantly remember the good times you are having! University is what you make it, so make it good.

Just remember to smile!

Feel free to leave any advice or words of wisdom which you may want to add :)

A snippet of my first year at Bournemouth University

Me and my uni girls at the BU Summer ball, it’s fancy dress and is set up like a festival, so we went as WW2 land women and had an amazing night

Dressed as Cows. Pack ALL the fancy dress you own
Freshers week

Veggie for a day?

This is not a bid to turn you into hard core vegetarians. Humans eat meat instinctively, and it is a good thing. The farming industry provides millions of jobs, and of course meat contains essential amino acids which our body can’t make ourselves. However, sometimes eating a meal without a slab of meat in it is not as bad as some may think, you just have to know how!

First of all, Quorn is not the root of all-evil. It is not an alien life form and it is entirely edible, you just have to know how to cook it. Like tofu, it is a shape shifter of flavour. It tastes like what you cook it in, so it’s a great substitute in chilli and curry which have strong fragrant flavours. On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend Quorn imitations to meat lovers. They find it insulting because at the end of the day it is an imposter of meat.

Good vegetarian food consists of real ingredients. It isn’t about purposely not eating meat, it’s about celebrating other flavours, and not needing the addition of meat to complete the meal. I feel like the Greeks and Italians understand this well, and often their best dishes don’t contain a scrap of meat, they rely solely on exciting flavours from olives, cheeses, herbs and zests. Caramelise red onions and eat them with goats cheese, make falafel balls from chickpeas and garlic and eat them with Houmous or mix fresh pesto with leeks, mozzarella and gnocchi.

I know people who think having a meal without meat is impossible, and I think it is very much a western thing! People have been brought up on potatoes, meat and veg, and haven’t been taught that there is more out there! And it tastes so good! And it is so good for you.

Yotam Ottolenghi writes a vegetarian column for The Guardian which is full of exciting flavours! I went to his restaurant once in Islington and the food is delicious. It is not all vegetarian, and it works a bit like a tapas restaurant so you can sample a big range of dishes between friends .

I am in no way saying if you eat meat you are doing it wrong, but sometimes a good vegetarian dish can be just what you need to bring that happy stomach smile to your face!

My happy vegaquarium tummy! (In my new bikini loving the sun :) )