A disaster on the teeny tiny hill and a puncture

I’m an owl. I go to bed late and as much as I’ve tried retraining myself over the years to become a dove, it always fails. My most successful attempts have been on returning from Europe when jet lag tends to help me achieve a brief dove-like state but it is always short lived. Those people who retire by 9.30pm and get up at 5am are a source of envy but an enigma to me. I’d love to be like them and they’re always so smug, but failure always catches up with me. I try regularly to go to bed at 9.30pm but I never actually get there before midnight despite the fact it is just around the corner from the living room in my very small house. The combination of my owl status and my fondness for procrastination always conspire against me. I am also queen of the snooze button. I’ve literally tried everything – putting my alarm across the other side of the room, keeping my bedroom cold, drinking a litre of water before I go to bed and so on. Nothing works. It takes my setting the alarm every 5 minutes for at least an hour before I can even think about swinging a leg over the side of the bed. And I may as well forget it in winter as the slightest chill in the room is such a disincentive to rising. I love my bed and I love it especially in the mornings. So it is a challenge to get up in time for the gym 3 mornings a week and it never gets easier.

By the way, my sister has an irrational dislike and fear of owls. This has made me realise that they’ve been omnipresent for the last few years. You can’t even buy a decent tea towel without an obligatory owl festooned upon it. Recently however, I feel they may be on the wane in favour of unicorns. Unfortunately my sister doesn’t like unicorns either. It’s a double whammy for the poor love but at least provides the rest of us with birthday and Christmas buying fodder. What a fussy one! She will kill me when she reads this…

You can understand therefore that getting up needlessly early is the worst kind of torture for me. And so it was today. “Don’t be late” said Sam, my boxing trainer at the gym. “I have someone else directly after you”. I managed to leave the house on time, gym kit on, work bags in the car, cats fed and watered, house alarm set and so on. So, imagine my disappointment when I was a few hundred metres down the road and I heard a sadly familiar noise. I had a puncture. As I was not far from home, I drove back. I thought that at least I could try and sort it out from the comfort of my own home rather than beside the road. At first I thought my workmen could help when they arrived (yes, the renovations continue still) but then I thought no, I’d rather they finish the endless renovations this side of 2018. So after a shower, I called the AA and waited patiently. Actually, they were very efficient. You don’t even need to speak to a human to get them to come and a friendly man called Chris appeared quickly. However the wheel was changed to one of those space saver jobbies so my next port of call was a tyre shop where I remained for the rest of the morning, my work time ebbing away along with far more dollars than I wanted to relinquish. They’re never pleasant places are they? A waiting room of torn leatherette chairs and decades-old magazines and a toilet which looked like it had not been cleaned since the last millennium where a “hover pee” was definitely the order of the day. As I sat there waiting, I thought fleetingly that at least it was the Italian branded car that had suffered this fate and not my bike because if I had a puncture on the 2 wheeled vehicle, I would literally have no idea what to do other than walk back to from where I had set out. I must resolve to put this right, I thought casually. I shall learn to change a tyre. I am really not sure how I thought I would learn this but at least the intention was there.

So, imagine my shock, when on ascending the teeny tiny hill this evening, I lost my bike chain. There are 3 things I have been dreading on the bike, other than failure of course: the chain coming off, a puncture and falling off. Not knowing what to do about the fact that at the front of my bike the chain seemed to not be around any of the 3 cogs (is that what they’re called?) but rather was flapping loosely in the breeze, I initially thought I’d just get back on regardless and give it a go in case I’d made a terrible mistake. I had not. Then I realised I had no choice but to walk the bike 4.5 km to the start of the trail, where I had parked. After a few metres I came to the realisation that this was ridiculous and forced myself to have a proper look at the bike and to really think about how I might be able to re-connect the chain. And I managed it – even without resorting to Google. My hands were filthy, but the chain was back on and I could resume my cycling. It felt like a triumph.

So, a puncture and a chain disconnection in one day but maybe not how I can completely imagined these events unfolding. Now all I need is a fall…

In other news. I have received paperwork from the charity organising the trek. There is the usual stuff about insurance, visas and ethical tourism. But then there is the packing list. This is always most enlightening. For example:

  • Underwear (or undwear as they’ve typed). Do I really need to be told to pack my kecks? I’m highly unlikely to forget underwear. It feels so strange when you forget and head out of the house without any, floppy bits a-swinging in the breeze, that you instantly remember. It’s like putting milk on a shopping list. But thanks for the reminder anyway
  • Thermal socks. Hmmm. It will be more than 30 degree celsius most days
  • Jogging shoes. No thanks. Cycling 470 kms is enough without resorting to jogging on holiday
  • Cycling gloves to avoid sunburnt hands. Well that’s helpful as I’d never have thought of that as a potential problem
  • Travel towel. Sorry, I’m not falling for that old chestnut again. They’re so small and non absorbent you can only dry one bum cheek and it gets so wet you may as well throw the damned thing away. I’d rather manage with a flannel or drip drying
  • Pannier or handle bar bag. I wonder if I show up with my small bag if someone will finally show me how it actually fits on a bike?
  • Cycle helmet. Hmmm, you said they were provided
  • Toe clips. What are they?
  • Bike shoes. Ditto?
  • Bike pedals. I really, really hope you haven’t rented bikes without pedals for us
  • Bike saddle. Same
  • Gel seat. Well yes, the catastrophists are so concerned about my nether regions that I’d already thought of that one
  • Playing cards. OK, is this the 20th century still?

But I know exactly what will happen. I’ll feel I should take it all anyway just in case and end up with the world’s largest case then only ever use about 10 per cent of it. But, it’s a start and they haven’t mentioned bringing any resuscitation equipment so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

Thanks to those who have already made donations. I already have enough for more than one bike. I am truly grateful. Here is the site for anyone else feeling jolly and generous this festive season!

Right, my next post and video will be my festive message to you all. You have been warned xx

Ye olde teeny tiny hill doth defeat me no more

I’ve invented a new word. I’m sure others have used it before so maybe I didn’t really invent it. Anyhow, it’s un-festive. It does what it says on the tin and describes how I feel at the moment. I’m not grumpy nor am I in a bad mood. I just feel un-festive and any ho-ho-hos that emanate from my lips do so through gritted teeth.

It’s that time of the year. Everything seems so hectic. Children are excited, adults are stressed, traffic is abysmal. But worse than anything, people keep asking what I’m doing for Christmas. “Working” is the answer. It’s not exactly exciting is it and if I’m honest I’m quite resentful about it. I don’t have any business feeling this way. Someone has to work Christmas and, after all, I knowingly and willingly signed up to a vocation that involved 24/7 cover and that means everyone taking their turn and sharing the roster. I last worked Christmas in 2013 and it was super quiet. I ended up being able to stay at home all day on Christmas Day and was even able to have people over for lunch. I’m not expecting it to be busy this year but not quiet either. This still doesn’t explain the resentment. Nonetheless, I will pitch up to work donning a Christmas outfit and probably everything will be absolutely fine on the day.

It’s not as if I haven’t got anything to which to look forward. I have a fabulous ski trip to Switzerland in early January and the cycle trek in February. It’s not even that I haven’t had a great time recently. I’ve had several weeks of celebrations with colleagues and friends that have set my social calendar alight. Last week alone I had a function nearly every day. Tuesday was just a brilliant day as my friend who has not been well had her birthday and a small group of us treated her to a helicopter trip over the harbour to a vineyard for lunch. She was feeling good that day and was super-excited to sit in the front of the chopper with the pilot on what was one of the most beautiful days of the year. The harbour put on a spectacular display. On a day like that it is one of the most glorious places in the world. The lunch was at a lovely spot overlooking this incredible place and the food and wine were delicious. In those hours there was no illness, just friends having a great day out, away from the mundanities of life.

Wednesday saw me babysitting for some friends. For some reason their 5 year old thinks I am the bees-knees. No sooner had they left for their night out than he was out of bed and beside me on the sofa. I won’t confess to them that I was secretly disappointed when I arrived to find him already safely tucked up in bed so this was fine by me. We sat and chatted about his hopes for Christmas. He has some very specific requests – that his trampoline be round and red, with a handle; preferably he’d like a drum too and that he be allowed to leave cakes for the reindeer just like he did last year. I tried to negotiate carrots but he wasn’t having any of that healthy food nonsense. He gave away some trade secrets about family life which made me snigger and then, like any good auntie, I yet again answered his question about why ladies have boobies. Setting the alarm for five more minutes out of bed was a minor coup for me as he couldn’t really argue when it went off (although I may have been conned into changing it to seven minutes but no-one need know that). He agreed to go to bed if I went with him for a snuggle. He was most indignant that this meant my taking my shoes off so as not to mess up his bed despite the fact it appeared to already be full of mess-creating felt pens without their tops. He then equipped me with a “blankie” just like his and as he was about to go to sleep he enquired innocently if I had anyone to snuggle at home. No, I said. This induced him to jump out of bed, go to his cupboard and find me a small cuddly dog to take home as a present, so that I had something to snuggle when I was on my own. How touching was that? He also gave me a half completed dot-to-dot colouring book and a dried up felt pen and instructed me to bring it back to show him when I’d finished it. Bless him. What a lovely boy he is shaping up to be.

Presents from a five year old
A second hand cuddly dog for me to snuggle and a half used colouring book. These are the best gifts ever because they were given with such love and good intention

The following day was a choir concert in the Town Hall. This is an a cappella choir in which a friend sings, along with several other people from work. Usually this concert is a bit tedious but this year it was genuinely lovely. Not only was the singing really good, the theme was love and so they sang some really great tunes. There were also some other performers including the usual obligatory school groups who made everyone coo. We won’t mention that in the last few bars of Only You by Yazoo, sung to round out the first half, someone’s phone started ringing in the audience. It may have been mine but I’m still in denial at the embarrassment.

Friday was a really great dinner followed by the musical version of Sister Act. What a fabulously fun show just before Christmas. I don’t know what it is about singing nuns but they have a certain something that makes everyone happy. On Saturday we had our departmental Christmas party and for the first time we were requested to wear outfits. The rather flamboyant “Gary” whom you have met in previous videos insisted upon this and it would be fair to say there was some reluctance. Such is the nature of our team that every single person nonetheless rose to the occasion and it may be strange to say so about something so seemingly trivial, but I felt proud of them. It just seemed to me that this stood testament to the fact that ultimately everyone embodies the team spirit and as their leader, I can’t want anything more from them than that. The following day was the Christmas function of another department in which we also work. It was out in the country at their director’s home and was a lovely informal and relaxed affair with great weather, company and food complete with a bouncy castle fire engine and tractor rides for the children. Finally, after all these functions I had a well earned day off partying and then yesterday, again, there was another evening do for yet another team to which I contribute. Again, more lovely people who were generous hosts and with whom I am delighted to work.

So, throughout all of this, how has the cycling been going? Well I have been out on the bike a few times and done more of the same which basically means I have again mainly cycled on the flat. I feel like I can build up distance but I am still fretting about hills and gears. In the gym, my training sessions are now focussed on improving my cardio abilities in readiness and we have been pushing the tension on the static bike in multiple short stints followed by going all out on the rowing machine. I’d secretly rather do the cardio work than kettle bell swings anyway but don’t tell my trainer this. A colleague at work who is a triathlete has offered to take me cycling over Christmas to show me how to deal with the gears. This is terribly kind but also incredibly scary. The man is a machine and I cannot imagine how embarrassed I will feel donning my lycra and showing myself up in front of him. Hopefully he will forget this kind offer… However, today I have had a minor achievement. I won’t spoil all but will let you watch the video which describes it. Suffice it to say that the title of this post gives it away and you’ll be proud of me.

Finally, I have had some discussions with Variety this week, the charity organising the trek. They have set up a Facebook group of the people partaking but so far no-one but me has joined so I have no more info yet on my fellow cyclists. I have also booked my flights which is exciting but means there is no going back now and that is scary. It is actually only just over 8 weeks away. While there is no fundraising target as such for this trip, we do have opportunity to raise money if we wish and I sort of feel I would like to try to do that given how much effort this cycling business is taking from me! The purpose of the fundraising is to purchase bikes for disadvantaged school children in New Zealand. While this wonderful country in which I live is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful and progressive in the world, it nonetheless has a problem with child poverty. Some of the children I see at work come from the most challenged families and so to be able to help in whatever ways I can is a true privilege, whether that be through my work or charitable ventures or both. Just $200 buys a child a bike. Even better, I can choose the low decile school to which I donate the bikes, which could be in my local community or anywhere else of my choice and furthermore, I can go to the school in person to deliver the bikes. This is a very tangible form of fundraising and being able to see the end result will be tremendously rewarding for all my efforts. If you feel you can donate, I would be extremely grateful. If you can’t donate, please just continue to support me in other ways. Your kind words and encouragement are enough. My fundraising site is here.

Until next time, enjoy your festivities or un-festivities and whatever the crazy season brings to you and yours xx