PLANNING!

grey mountain bike leaning on brown wall brick in garden
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PROPER PLANNING AND PREPARATION PREVENTS PISS POOR PERFORMANCE!

So, the maps are prepared, the route is not quite set in stone but a phrase book and an O level in French will hopefully be enough to get me from Roscoff in the north of France to Moliets et Maa in the south. If I end up in the Alps, you’ll know that I’ve got my droit and gauche mixed up somewhere along the line. Easy mistake I’m sure.

My camping gear is ready and I practised again today putting up my tiny one-man tent. All fairly straightforward except that now that the ground is as dry and hard as concrete, so a small mallet will be added to my panniers.

I have a few clothes ready, including some extraordinarily unattractive padded cycling knickers. I was told very clearly that purchasing these would be a life-saver for me, or certainly for my bottom. Although frankly they’re so big you could potentially use them as a buoyancy aid. It was clearly not a woman who designed them. I have never seen such an ugly foam-lined piece of Lycra in my life. However, if they prevent a sore bottom, then my vanity will have to be pushed aside for a while. I remember at prep school we had to wear two pairs of revolting grey enormous knickers. Underpants and over-pants. Even in summer – grim. Now there’s a yeast infection waiting to happen. These are not dissimilar except rather stretchy and the padding makes me walk as though I have a rather bad case of haemorrhoids. Enough said.

Claude (the bicycle) is going in for a bit of a service next week, to my lovely new chum with the red hair at the bicycle shop to make sure that he’s all tickedy boo, fit, healthy and raring to go (Claude, not the red-haired bicycle doctor). The left brake needs a bit of tlc I discovered last week … ok, it chose to fail at a rather crucial moment. Don’t worry, the lady and the dogs were perfectly fine afterwards.

And as for me, well, I have three weeks and five days to go, so of course am planning the important things like working out how I’m going to fit the entire bathroom cabinet into my panniers when they’re already filled with dull things like bicycle oil and spare inner tubes … The Colonel and I clearly have different priorities.

The ferry is booked, the cooking kit and first aid packed up (although I am a complete girl’s blouse and frankly if I’m needing first aid, I shall be found in the nearest hospital with Claude and my French phrase book trying to get sympathy … I wonder if the French are as tough as the Scots? In which case I’m doomed. They only hand out drugs if you use a combination of tears and begging in roughly equal quantities.) I think I’ll keep the first aid kit in just in case, we’ve got some Thomas the Tank Engine plasters and some Dettol, plus various different gauze’s etc etc. Perfect.

I think I’m relatively fit, so I just need to keep up with the exercise and then …. boom! I shall be off. Setting off on my way to Clapham Junction railway station, packed up, raring to get onto the train to begin my adventure. But the funny thing is, that I’m also enjoying the preparation of it too. It’s not just about arriving at Moliets et Maa, it’s about the entire journey, both physical and of course, mental. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this. This extraordinary feeling, not of anxiety, but of excitement, pure unadulterated excitement.

To be continued ….

Katie xx

Ps What makes you excited? Nothing smutty allowed … Ok, so when was the last time you were really excited? Nothing smutty here either …

Depression, Anxiety and Gardening …

girl and puppy sitting on green grass surrounded with shrubs during daytime
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When I was young, I used to think gardening was for old people. I also used to think that cricket was dull (No I daren’t mention football). Well, cricket for me is still quite dull, but being undoubtedly in the minority I concede that I just might be wrong. And as for gardening being for old people, well I’m so far off course with that opinion that I’m heading to the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen again. So please don’t shoot me down just yet. The ignorance of my youth was pretty blissful, but as you know, I am now a new woman and learning every day.

I used to watch my mother pottering around her gardens dead-heading here, staking there, looking as pretty as a picture and so very, very content. At peace with the world. I try to emulate her, starting off with Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, a large floppy hat, flippy floppy skirt and a rather twee trug, until I’ve done my usual and got a little overexcited and started tree pruning or digging in manure with over enthusiastic gusto and before too long the skirt is hitched up into my knickers, I’m pink in the face and all sense of glamour and grace have disappeared into the compost heap most probably along with the hat. Quite how my mother managed it I shall never know.

But a couple of things I do know are this …

Studying for those RHS (Royal Horticultural Society for non-gardeners) exams was the probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Perhaps because it was something that I was actually interested in, rather than studying algebra, trigonometry and …. binary (what exactly is the purpose of binary?) at school. Maths and I never got along and indeed still have a fairly tenuous relationship. Learning about something however that lives all around us and keeps us alive is so relevant, so important that even the narcissist in the old me cannot help but be in awe of mother nature.

And finally, gardening is the best cure for anxiety and depression todate that I have come across. It would be inconceivable to find me upended in a herbaceous border crying into the perennial geraniums, I’d be too busy gazing into their cheery little faces of pinks and purples. And how can I possibly be anxious when my entire focus is to pull out weeds and deadhead the roses … it takes complete concentration and as we all now know, I simply cannot multitask.

Also, and as an aside, being in the sunlight … did you know that normal sitting room lighting gives you 100 lux, whereas being outside on a sunny day gives you between 20,000 and 200,000 lux! And we wonder why we feel better after a day outside. Plus there’s the exercise … think endorphins and dopamine, and finally that wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Of a job well done.

So even though we have a postage stamp of a garden in our military quarter, there’s still room for some flowers and pots and whilst I don’t think that Wandsworth Borough Council would appreciate my attempts at tree pruning, I see no reason to do a bit of digging, planting and pruning, if not to look glamorous with our Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, but at least to perhaps find a little peace within the world and most importantly, within ourselves.

Katie xx

Do you have a garden, balcony or a windowsill with pots? What do you grow?

(Anxiety, Depression) and When the Mood Drops …

two black bicycles beside gray frame glass window
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Monday morning and back in saddle again. (Nb for new readers, this relates to the bicycle saddle rather than any association to the equine variety.) But this time it was tougher. Cold, windy, a little rain, a bad attitude and a poor choice of route led me to stop and have a little ponder on what on earth was going on with my mood.

Now, in the old days, I’d have gone into a complete decline, had a minor (ok, major) spoilt brat tantrum usually involving tears (to show someone, anyone who would listen to how utterly ghastly I was feeling and to justify my impending surrender), said “Sod this for a fun game of soldiers” and given up.

Instant relief would follow toute de suite and I would shamefully pretend to ignore the disappointed look on everyone’s face.

Sadly, that little voice in the back of my mind whispering, “You shouldn’t give up when the going gets tough!” gradually became quieter and quieter as the habit of giving up became so strong that it was now the default setting, until I simply couldn’t hear it and even if I could, I would choose to ignore it. It’s incredible how quickly a bad habit can grow.

So here we are, a grown woman, with a raison d’etre to better myself, standing miserably by the side of a busy road, alone, cold, tired and a trickle of rain disappearing down the back of my neck and ending up somewhat uncomfortably in my knickers … Marvellous.

However, with the fearsome prospect of bicycling the length of France, not always necessarily in glorious sunshine with a boulangerie at the next corner and a delicious Frenchman’s shoulder to sob upon, I realise that the new me is indeed made of stronger stuff and I am trying a new tack, and tentatively refusing to fall back upon the default setting of giving up.

So, I delve deep, find my inner grown-up and give myself a stern talking to. This, in simple terms involves some fruity language and the promise of a hot chocolate tout bloomin’ suite.

Oh, and next time, to remember that this is England, so take a waterproof. (Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance …. ahhh yes, there’s a soldier in me yet).

Changing my route and heading away from the dual carriageway and within five minutes I discover that there truly is a God. Who’d have known that they have invented a drive-thru Krispy Creme doughnuts shop just for me! Well hallelujah!

Twenty minutes later, dried out and warm, filled with soft, sweet heavenly doughnuts, (very plural and no I’m not saying how many), a coffee and a route infinitely better than cycling alongside a dual carriageway, I find myself charging along with a smile on my face confident in the knowledge that I’ll have burned off the 4 million calories I’ve just consumed super-toute-de-suite and all is once again well in the world. A bit of behaviour management and a stern talking to and I’m tickedy-boo. Perhaps Krispy Creme had a marginal impact, but really I’m not that simple … ok, maybe …

Katie xx

What do you do when your mood drops?? Do you give into it? (Truth please!) Or do you have a secret weapon or doughnut up your sleeve?

Golly! 500 Followers … Are You All Mad?

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Well blow me down with a feather! … 500 followers!

I confess that the overwhelming feeling here is one of gratitude mixed with a large dollop of disbelief. Disbelief that frankly anyone would feel compelled to not only read my nonsensical drivel, (sometimes even making positive comments) but actually press a button to ensure that said drivel continues to filter onto their screens. Extraordinary behaviour from each and every one on you, but it has to be said, that I am absolutely and unutterably delighted. Thank you.

I still feel like a bit of a newbie here although I started in January; I’ve yet to work out how to take a photograph and post it, I only worked out how to “re-blog” last week and as for putting my posts into some sort of order … well that’s just beyond me. I’m not a clever lassie, but I write and I love it. And I read your posts, and I love them.

So thank you, thank you WordPress for opening up my world to these wonderful people, these wonderful …. friends.

Katie xx

Anxiety, Focus and Multi-tasking.

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My brain is a simple thing. Like my computer, when there are too many tabs open at one time, it starts having a crisis, slows down and invariably simply stops working at all. Now, in the knowledge that I should probably take it to a computer hospital, I wonder if perhaps my brain needs a bit of a looking at too.

The reason I say this is because I cannot multi-task. Too many things going on up there in that fluffy cotton wool between my ears and it all starts unravelling. Badly. Like a dozen balls of multi-coloured wires being tangled up together, if things start getting too complicated, there is a sudden fizzing, a loud explosion and boom! It’s all over … A crisis is here. It happens very easily, relatively often, but is a bit of a bugger to sort out.

The Colonel however works best when doing a minimum of three things at once, and frankly the more the merrier. Concurrent activity he calls it. I have been known to just stare at him, baffled and bewildered as to how he does it. Perhaps that’s why he is good at his job and I don’t appear to even have a job. Must resolve that too …

However, I am now addressing this, ‘issue’. (Not the staring one, or the jobless one, the inability to multi-task one). So far, without much success.

I’m embarrassed to admit how very simply I tested myself yesterday morning and the outcome, but here goes …

Filling up the watering can in the kitchen sink whilst emptying the dishwasher.

You see, I read somewhere the other day that to help deter that awful habit, ‘procrastination’, the answer is, that if you see a job that will take less than one minute to do, then you must start it within a minute. Well I think that’s what it said. Brilliant! But perhaps only one task at a time. This is fine for most people, but not for the non-multi-taskers. The single-taskers like myself may find it problematic.

So, back to the watering can …. I’m putting things away, the water is filling the can, the cupboard doors are all open, I can feel the stress (yes really) starting to filter into my brain and the balls of wire up there amongst the cotton wool starting to fizzle, but to put away the frying pan means taking out several other pans so that it will not just fit in, but also the door will close. Fizzle, fizzle goes my brain …. The sound of water is suddenly louder and looking over my shoulder with a wok in one hand, the colander in another and the frying pan under my arm I see a steady, heavy fountain of water pouring out of the watering can’s spout, over the edge of the sink and into the open cupboard below, and yup, into the tub where the three-in-one multicoloured clothes washing pods live.

Boom!!

Brain has exploded …. much yelping, dropping of woks and pans and strangely my immediate reaction was not to turn off the tap, but to put the colander under the steady stream of water … we now have a version of the Water Fountains at Versailles.

Presumably I don’t need to describe the bubbly mess that I single-handedly created. Suffice to say however that those cute little squidgy little pods of blue and green designed to keep your clothes super clean, dissolve in cold water very quickly. Nine ruptured immediately, five stuck together and the remaining three are currently still drying on kitchen roll (stuck of course to the paper).

The laundry basket is however empty and all the sheets and towels have been washed too, completely unnecessarily of course, but just so as to use up the washing liquid on the floor, the sink, the side, and my shoes … Yes, everything is sparkly clean.

However, do not fear fellow single-taskers, for I have found there is an upside to all of this … if I am completely focused on just one task, not only do I tend to do it well, although I can become quite obsessed (tennis, now cycling) and take it to the extreme, it does mean that I simply cannot think about anything else whilst I am doing it. As in, I cannot think about anything else negative or otherwise whilst doing this activity. So Betty (the demon depressive) is firmly locked in the shed and shackled to the garden roller with duck-tape on her mouth so to speak.

So for all my single-taskers out there, if indeed I am not alone, there is hope for us all. Whilst we may not be able to fill a watering can and empty the dishwasher, we can do one better … We can get all the washing done and clean the kitchen floor too. Have hope!

Katie xx

Can you multi-task?? If so, don’t reply … ! 😉

Anxiety, Confidence and Being Happy (On a Bicycle) …

person riding bicycle
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Some of you might know that I’m doing a wee bicycling trip through France next month. 1150km of pottering along cycle paths and tracks, through villages, past (and into) boulangeries, and following the coast south all the way to where my husband’s family will, fingers crossed, be waiting for me with aftersun, paracetamol and a vat of ibuprofen gel.

I’ve chosen the scenic route which with any luck will mean avoiding the lorries and buses, but may of course mean that I have to endure the sound of my own voice and thoughts for many, many hours a day at a time. Thankfully I’m no singer so there won’t be any renditions of The Sound of Music, but I do ponder on whether I’ll be ok with just … me. It’s not a safety thing, God forbid should some poor fellow think it’s wise to take on this feisty old bird! No, it’s more about being bored of my own thoughts and if things get bad, will I be able to stop the downward spiral of negativity without my usual routines and a practical and heavenly husband just a few miles away.

Well, time will tell and any suggestions are genuinely welcome.

I’ve been going out most days and gradually getting stronger, fitter and more confident. People on the road never fail to astound me however, cyclists and drivers alike. Yesterday I had only three shrieking moments, once with a lorry cutting me up, once with a woman suddenly deciding to cross the road and the last one, much the worst, with a fellow cyclist in front of me deciding to ‘gob’, yes ‘spit’ his phlegm out which promptly landed on my leg. Arghhhhh! Yes, I damn well did give him hell. To be fair, he didn’t know that I was right behind him, but did his mother teach him nothing?!

I got a little lost as per usual, but found Fleet Street, The Strand, Covent Garden and little secret squares tucked away with the occasional terribly smart restaurant hiding within. Beautiful. I was looking to bicycle along Southside which I’d heard was rather fun, but having been stampeded by a school trip of children simultaneously with a group of Japanese tourists I made a bit of a diversion, not even sure if that was Southside.

I ended up in the borough of Lambeth which is dodgy old place, well the part I was in certainly had little to recommend it. Huge tower blocks, screaming children, an ominous feel about it and a few too many ‘young’ loitering (with or without intent I know not). Certainly the blood was pumping as I passed a small group of lads who thought it amusing to try to intimidate me. Standing up on the pedals and pushing on hard, I got past in one piece despite one of them thinking he might outrun me on his skateboard … pfff … as bloody if.

At the far end of this particularly dubious area however I found myself at The Vauxhall City Farm. Quite extraordinary to find Alpacas and chickens in the middle of London. I stopped and watched and listened as two girls had rather an amusing discussion as to whether or not donkeys were carnivores and their safety was in question.

Having a little bell on a bike is now fairly pointless, as people 80% of the time who are walking, have headphones on so can’t hear you, dogs are unpredictable (nearly took out a Dachshund last week) and other cyclists … well I’ve only overtaken three so far and one of them was stationary. I think perhaps I need a socking great foghorn instead, but being slightly highly strung myself, I may well find it’s not awfully good for the blood pressure. I give myself enough frights … the other day in the bedroom I was opening the sliding door of my husband’s cupboard and screamed blue murder as I discovered someone standing in front of me in the cupboard. Dear God! Thankfully it was in actual fact just my own reflection in the mirrored cupboard door, but I needed a bit of a lie down after that. You get my drift … perhaps a foghorn is not the answer.

I’m getting fitter of that there is no doubt and my stamina is improving (particularly with the incentive of a bloke on a skateboard shouting obscenities and chasing me). And the other day I managed to overtake a girl going up a particularly long hill towards Wandsworth as her boyfriend waited patiently at the top for her. It felt good.

I still have a long way to go and watching a YouTube video in the front garden on how to change a bicycle tyre last Friday certainly was a little too public as I ended up having various very kind and well meaning people offering to help, but that wasn’t really the point! How sweet they were, but as I explained, I do need to work out how to do this for myself! People are kind really, they’re not all axe-murdering psychopaths.

So onwards and upwards. Have a lovely day my friends and remember, if you’re in London, avoid the dodgy end of Lambeth past the farm, and for certain, avoid a blonde bicyclist wobbling her way through town with an array of expletives on the tip of her tongue and a rather pathetic tinkly little bell on a bicycle called Claude.

Katie xx

What are you doing that makes you happy today?

What Are You Going To Blog About Today?

So, for any of my readers who have not yet come across A Fractured Faith, may I introduce you to, in my humble opinion, the most honest, kindest and bestest (yes it’s a word) blogger out there. Read and enjoy!

Fractured Faith Blog

It has come to my attention (well I do investigate for a living after all) that I follow a lot of fantastic bloggers. I try to keep up with as many of them as I can and, where possible, offer encouragement and support. I can’t do that with them all, though, as otherwise I would never be off WordPress but even if it means just liking a post, I do it. Just to let people know that I care and appreciate their written efforts. It’s the least I can do given the tremendous support we receive on a daily basis.

The flip side of that is that a lot of bloggers don’t blog or, if they do, it is very infrequently. You see it all the time. The ‘Sorry I haven’t blogged in ages but I’ve been soooooo busy/life got in the way/haven’t had anything to say’ type introductions. Delete…

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