Tag Archives: Cycling

Out of Work

I’m now in my third week of being out of work and this is my journey so far…

Week one was like having a week off:

Mr PinQ had won tickets to go and watch the premier show of Strictly being filmed.

Strictly logo

We decided to drive to Elstree Studios because the joining instructions state that the dress code is “glamorous” and I didn’t fancy an hour or so on the train followed by getting the tube or a bus – especially as it was likely to be a late night.

I decided to wear my pretty yellow Monsoon dress:

Yellow Monsoon Dress

I’ve only worn it twice, the first time when my little exhibition opened and then for a friend’s wedding so it was a great excuse to get it out of the wardrobe.  As before, I teamed it with jade green satin Karen Millen shoes and bag – similar to these but without the ruffle on the side:

Karen Millen Green Satin Shoes

It took a couple of hours to get there and there was a car park just off the roundabout exit directly opposite the studio which was free in the evening so I only had to pay to park for the afternoon.  We joined the queue, validated the tickets and waited to be allowed in.  We didn’t take our mobile phones because they have to be checked in as you enter the canteen/bar area where you spend the next hour.  There is seating for a couple of hundred or so of the 500 audience members and two ladies toilets but it made the experience quite chummy because strangers had something to chuckle about.

The audience were called in batches of 50 and we all walked to the Strictly stage.  As we passed the George Lucas stage, we saw a man in a butler’s costume peeling a banana – I made him laugh (and choke a little on his banana) because he heard me say to Mr PinQ: “He’s not in Star Wars!”

I made a request to be seated at the end of a row because I knew that I made need to move because of my back so we were seated in the production area at the edge of the dancefloor.  The thing that strikes you first about the set is how very small it is.  I believe that the ceiling height gives the illusion of a huge dancefloor because of the ability to show it with a bird’s-eye-view.

Whilst people were still being seated, I nipped out to the ladies and bumped into Cassidy Little.  I stopped him to say that we had been to watch The Two Worlds of Charlie F and that it was the best and most moving piece of theatre that I had ever seen.  He asked where we’d seen it and chatted a while and at the end of our conversation, he thanked me for being so kind and gave me a big hug! That made my day, everything else paled into insignificance.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F

Brendan, Anton, Aljaž, Pasha, Natalie, Janette, Darcey, Bruno and Craig and Caroline all came over and chatted with us.  Len kept his distance but I heard him talking to one of the production team about the fact that he was suffering from a cold.

The singers did their spots first and embarrassingly, too many of the audience were unable to clap in time and had to be told not to clap as it was off-putting for the artists!  We watched the entrance from the Strictly Express the introductory dance of Oti, Giovanni and Gleb, the group dance and Caroline and Pasha’s dance as reigning champions.  It was really entertaining but really tiring because there were several takes of some of the songs and dances and filming didn’t end until about 23:30 but we had a great adventure so it was worth every minute!

Week two of my new life was far more eventful but far less glamorous:

I set myself two fitness goals of cycling 50 miles and doing 10 workouts.  I cycled 52.85 miles and completed 16 workouts.  I started my NISA Bronze Passport training (old passport because I did the old NISA levels 1 – 10) and had an impromptu skating lesson from a Hockey Coach on Thursday afternoon – he really put me through my paces and spent a great deal of time helping me to get rid of my fear of going backwards by teaching me a new way to go backwards, pushing me to keep going, making do back crossovers on the corners and all the while, chatting about random subjects so that I would notice what I was doing.  It was great! I use those tactics sometimes when I’m teaching other people but it was so nice to have someone doing that for me for a change.  He also taught me a new way to lace my boots so that I didn’t get “lace bite” and what a relief that was – I can at last skate in comfort without having to keep getting off the ice to re-lace my boots.  It was also the first week of ballet for the new academic year and I finally managed to do the dance that has eluded me for 6 months.

I did the housework without tiring myself out because I wasn’t trying to squeeze it into a weekend along with shopping, socialising and exercise which meant that I have had plenty of rest.  It will be a while yet before I’m totally rested and fit again so I won’t try to push myself too much – I would like to enjoy my time out of work.

I felted the roof of the new rabbit hutch that we made a few months ago and tidied the shed so that back garden looks a little less like the Clampetts have moved in and Florence (the chicken in quarantine – chicken post to follow soon) now has a much better shelter on her temporary home.  It couldn’t have been timed better, the temporary covers that we’d put on Rocky and Drizzle’s hutch and Florence’s quarantine cage wouldn’t have protected them from the dreadful rain that we’ve had over the last few days.

I had a successful interview to run Magic Maths.  It’s an after school club teaching and supporting Key Stage 1 & 2 mathematics.  Schools are approached and if they are interested, the lady who runs the program goes in to do a school assembly, if the school then want the program, a register is set up and a night agreed and then this is where I would come in.  Magical Maths is a 6 week program and each week has a theme, so week 1 is “Maths Detectives” and my character would be Stately Holmes, there are 5 themes and the children get to choose their favourite for week 6.  I have started my DBS application but hit a wall when the electronic form refused to work and I will be attending training on 3 Oct 15.

I also took deliver of my new laptop and PC from Dell.  Joy!

Much as I would have liked a brand new, sexy inspiron, I was able to get both a laptop and desktop from the Dell Outlet store for the price of the one sparkly new one so I’m really pleased, it’s been difficult being without a working laptop for the last 3 and a half months!

We made new friends and spent time with old friends at a wine-tasting, had a lovely evening at dinner with two of our best friends in their new home, I had a great leaving do and we’ve had friends over for dinner so we’ve had more of a social life than we usually have the time or energy for so it’s all good.

I’ve tried out some of the fabulous new art supplies given to me as part of my leaving present from work but I’m still not feeling brave enough to apply water to the watercolour pencil sketch that I did of one of the chooks.

Week three (now):

Sunday was great, we took a trepidatious but excited young lady to Uni, spending an hour or so to help get her unpacked and settled more quickly, leaving her with only her clothes and bedding to sort out before the Fresher’s Ball and Mr PinQ collected a few bits and bobs from friends on his way home.  All was well.

Then came my first experience of the Job Centre for many years.  It didn’t start well.

Having applied online for Jobseeker’s allowance (after all, what else have I been paying National Insurance and taxes for?) I’d had a text from DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) telling me that I had an appointment at 08:50 on 14 Sep 15.  I duly arrived a couple of minutes early and when I tried to get into the building, discovered that it doesn’t open until 09:00.

I was not a happy bunny.

I then sat through all of the questions and was told that I could have interview training and assistance in writing my CV from my Coach.  I pointed out that I could probably teach my Coach a few things on that score.  The lady dealing with was oozing false empathy and that just made my back go up all the more.  Anyway, I left with an an “agreement” which was a list of things that I will do to find employment.  There was no agreement.  She told me what I would be doing.

I cycled for about 8 miles to work out the anger and was left feeling totally demoralised.


The cycle home was interesting!

I thought I’d better stick to the pavement as my cheap retro light broke and the local Pashley dealer has none in stock.  Thankfully, when the Police cycled past, I was walking.

The pavement had covers in several places where holes were being dug, bollards, signs, a bus stop with benches, wheelie bins out for collection and massively overgrown shrubbery so I had to up my game significantly.

The best bit…

For the second time this week, I didn’t gear down going over the bridge, I just powered through it!

Go me 🙂


…for another cycling post so soon after my last.

I begged Mr PinQ to take the car to work on New Year’s Eve.  It was so cold when he got up and I didn’t want him frozen and having to work 12 hours to get frozen again coming home.  In the afternoon, I realised that it wouldn’t hurt to nip into work myself and catch up whilst it was quiet.  It was later, sunny and relatively mild so I rather enjoyed the ride in.  Coming home was a different story, the wind was up and cycling along the sea front was quite the new experience.  Bracing isn’t the word.

Despite this, whilst Mr PinQ visited the Mater in Kent on New Year’s Day, I thought that a few more hours would see me in a much better position to achieve my resolution of not working more than 50 hours per week in 2015 and cycled in.  The wind was behind me and it was dry so I was quite content.  Then of course, I had to come home.  It was a battle all the way as the wind was now up to 80kph and I wasn’t looking forward to the sea front but I was taking a moment to enjoy the cycle path that I was on.  I had just left the road so couldn’t be blown into the path of a passing car and it was quiet because no-one in their right minds would be out in such weather.

Did I forget to mention that I am as mad as a box of frogs?

Anyway, as I approached the end of the cycle path, I looked at the road ahead.  I had to get across the road and turn right and the visibility, although it was dark, is superb along that cycle path.  My position is illustrated by the blue circle and my path by the yellow dashed line in Cycle 1, below (if it works!).  There are chicken wire fences around the fields so the only thing stopping 360 degree visibility is my human form, in the guise of an owl, the view would be complete.  So, I looked to the left and saw flashing blue lights, looked to the right and saw a car stop at the roundabout (represented by the red rectangle).  Now, I am not at my fittest but I have always had very powerful legs and a strength of character (stubborn streak) a mile wide that could be my Polish blood or Lancashire upbringing – I’ve never been sure which – but I am no fool.  I knew that I had plenty of time to get across that road.

Cycle 1

Imagine my surprise when said car suddenly accelerated.  The surprise quickly turned to horror when he then crossed over the white line for a game of chicken as shown in the diagram below:

Cycle 2

I’m so glad that I have cycled a lot since getting Pashley because I had the confidence to not only stay on the road but to also remain upright.  My only regret is that he didn’t stop.  I would have put Pashley through his windscreen and my foot through his face.

When not to call out a warning

Mr PinQ and I cycled into town today because I needed to purchase an item of my pantomime costume for next weekend.  We stopped for coffee and a panini before heading for home and as we unlocked our bicycles, I asked what route we should take home.  Mr PinQ made a suggestion that would be significantly longer than necessary but that would be pleasant and take in the lovely sea view on the last leg.

It is only recently that I began cycling again and as such, I am still not as adept as I was when I was a teenager and cycling the strange country roads in Ontario unaccompanied.  I am now past the wobbling up the road stage, the terrified of the traffic stage and the concentrating on the cycling stage and am progressing quite nicely but I cycle as I walk, with all of my senses tuned to my surroundings.  I cycle with my ears and proximity sensors on highest alert because I am not yet capable of riding one-handed for more than a couple of seconds and can only manage a swift look in a direction other than that which I am traveling in.  Consequently, I can’t ride with Mr PinQ beside, just in front or just behind me and prefer to stay well back.

Thus we rode along the recently re-surfaced cycle path at the side of the road and as we approached a well-known supermarket, a white Audi past me at great speed.  I instinctively knew what he was going to do but did not believe anyone so stupid.  I dared not call out to Mr PinQ, who’s immediate response would have been to turn back and look at me, I knew that he needed to be looking ahead.  I also knew that he would be fine.

My premonition was correct.  The Audi turned left in front of Mr PinQ even as he crossed the junction.

Thankfully, he is unscathed.

Unfortunately, the driver is also unscathed.

The driver’s actions were entirely intentional.  This was not one of those devastating near misses where you are horrified by your mistake.  He increased his speed as he passed me, fully intending to cut across my husband at that junction.

As a side note, the life insurance payments are up-to-date 😛

Conquering Fear

After fracturing my spine (falling on snow), I became more and more afraid of things.

In the last five years, I have had to learn to do things that I wouldn’t have thought twice about before and each time I have done something new, I have been shaking.  I have climbed trees, learned to ice-skate (starting Silver tomorrow!), built and covered the roof of Chinchilla Towers and climbed up onto the maintenance platform on the tail of several Chinooks.

For a long time, I have wanted to cycle again.

My first bike came from Leeds and my mum borrowed stabilizers from a neighbour but my step-dad ripped them off when he got home.  Every morning, we got up super-early and went around the Coalies with me cycling and him holding onto the back of my bike.  For a week or so, he ran along behind, no longer holding on but whilst I was unaware, all was well; it was only when I turned around one day and realized that he was no longer holding on that I had a wobble!  I loved that bike.

As a teenager, three of us girls went cycling for the day around Bury and Heywood after an impromptu sleep-over following a party.  I hadn’t cycled for a few years then but it was fine.  A couple of years later, I borrowed my auntie’s bike and cycled for miles in Canada.  I was 15 then.

A few years after fracturing my spine, I dislocated my hip and since then, whenever I have tried to use an exercise bike in a gym, my hip has tried to dislocate after about 10 minutes.  Consequently, I have been frightened of cycling.

20-something years on, I finally saw the perfect bicycle:

Pashley Poppy Pastel Blue

It is a Pashley, hand-made in England and a beautiful piece of engineering.  Although mine has a basket fitted to the front.  I collect it at the weekend!