My first foray into London cycling

There are just seven weekends until the London to Brighton Night Ride and I’m hideously underprepared and out of shape. Ok – so maybe saying that I’m hideously out of shape is an exaggeration, but (and there’s always a but) when you have to use a safety-pin to hold your  work trousers together because you can’t zip it up,  it’s safe to say I need to get back on that bike!

That’s exactly what I did today. All 8.57miles around London to be precise. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy cycling. Then I got onto the busy and perilous roads of the city and realised how lucky I was when I was cycling around the Oxfordshire countryside last year. It wasn’t so much enjoyable as it was trying to stay alive on the mean roadways of London.

The reason why I haven’t hopped back on my bike is because, quite frankly, I was scared. The thought of negotiating several lanes that split off in various directions while cycling alongside red double-decker buses and non-friendly drivers left me in a cold sweat. It was easier to go swimming or put it off for the next day and the day after that.

My end destination was High Street Kensington. I work here and thought I might cycle to work a few times a week. I get to save a few quid and get fit!  The aim of today was trying to find a (safe) route. There were several ways to get to work which seemed to be straightforward and it was. Then I hit Hammersmith and had to negotiate a large roundabout. The problem was, I didn’t know which road I was supposed to cycle on to let alone which lane I had to get into. At this point, staying alive was my main priority, so hopped off my bike, found a map and walked to the right road.

Other than the Hammersmith fiasco and cycling very close to cars, vans and larger vehicles all vying to get into various lanes, it wasn’t too bad. But then, it wasn’t rush hour. I think I’ll need a few more dry runs before I decide to take the plunge and cycle to work.

Photo by Tom Anderson http://www.flickr.com/photos/twic/2844493252/

Photo by Tom Anderson

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#bookreviewfri – Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

For this week’s #bookreviewfri,  @carole_m_scott reviews Bitter Greens:

Bitter Greens is the first ‘grown ups’ novel from prolific Australian children’s novelist, Kate Forsyth. It is a beautiful and spellbinding book, telling the story of three different women – a ‘Rapunzel’ locked away in C16th Venice, a scandalous aristocrat in C17th France, banished from court to a nunnery, and the nun who tells her stories to make her exile bearable. Kate’s writing is intoxicating and I found myself transported to the times and places she took me to. I was walking the alleyways of long ago Venice and I was trapped in the toxic but entertaining court of Louis XIV. The powerful, deviant and different women at the heart of the story made a refreshing change from the ‘all too good’ female characters that perpetuate in most literature and in addition, it’s a great page turner. Kate’s prose is gorgeous; it’s colourful, lively, sumptuous. I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to get lost in a complete world whenever they pick up a book.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forstyh

You can find Carole at her blog – Carole Scott – where she muses about life, travel and whatever springs to mind.

Put Facebook down!

Have you logged onto Facebook and felt a twinge of jealousy? Or what about feeling like a failure when your stream is full of everyone else’s good news? Does it feel the whole world feels like it’s doing much better than you?

Join the club.

Facebook is a constant reminder of what we should have, where we should be heading. Even the annoying suggested app is telling us what we should like. We can’t help but pitch ourselves against each other. It’s more personal because these are the people you know, you’ve grown up with, your peers. It’s tangible. This is real life – not a piece of aspirational telly about some stranger doing better than you.

I wrote about turning 30 a few weeks ago and how it’s put the pressure on to have all the adult trappings such as a house, marriage and kids. I think Rachel from Friends nails it on the head when she says: ‘Look, y’know I know my life’s going pretty well, but I look around and I just see so many people who’ve accomplished so many other goals by the time they’re thirty.’

Comparing ourselves to each other isn’t a new thing, but I think Facebook has added to the pressure. Here in the UK, 23% of us admit to checking Facebook five times or more every day. It’s hard not to judge yourself against everybody else when we’re constantly checking Facebook and seeing  what everyone else is doing. It’s even harder to avoid temptation now that our phones have become mini computers and we become an ever more connected society.

It’s easy to say ‘don’t log onto Facebook if it makes you feel that way’, but it’s a modern way to keep in touch. It’s easy and convenient – other than for work, are you more likely to email or Facebook your mates? My hunch is you’ll Facebook someone. You’ll probably get a faster response anyway. Why? Because it’s harder to ignore a message on Facebook than email, especially when they can see that you’ve read their message (thanks a lot Facebook ‘I’ve seen your message’ tick).

But we need to remember the feed is made up of news that your friends want to you know. Facebook serves to highlight someone’s life – it’s not all of their life. Like my mum says, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

So the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself to the whole universe according to your Facebook world, ask yourself why you’re letting it make you feel like crap then go and do something nice for yourself.

#bookreviewfri – Will We Ever Speak Dolphin?

The Last Word column in The New Scientist has been answering everyday science questions since 1994 and now has its own book. Will We Ever Speak Dolphin is it’s latest instalment. It asks and answers such questions such as why do dishwashers have such difficulty cleaning spinach off plates and why does halloumi cheese squeak against your teeth?

If you’re into useless facts, then this is for you. It’s a book that you can dip in and out of and good loo reading material.