Needs

…18 months later, I am once more only partially employed and finding myself with the time and headspace for writing. As well as for picking up the self-improvement pace, not least because having hit middle age and unexpected health problems in the last couple of years I feel I am running out of time to get somewhere with my life that I’m content to be.

Step one is ‘sort house out’. My issues with all things domestic have stood in my way for too long, have always affected me negatively in multifarious ways, and now need addressing more than ever as downsizing is a key part of my master plan (not least as a measure to make keeping on top of domestic things easier in future).

Sporadic decluttering has happened over the years and the house is better than it’s ever been, but still not ‘normal’ in the sense of somewhere I’d feel comfortable inviting people in without considerable notice (though friends are now OK, which wasn’t the case until early last year).

Possibly the best push so far happened when I used my 45th birthday as an excuse to ask friends to donate an hour of their time to help me with the tasks I found most challenging, which was further evidence that deadlines and accountability are the way to go for me. The idea came from the deepening conviction that I suffer from AD(H)D, and that having someone by my side or looking over my shoulder or depending on my work can help me focus*. Hence being so much more organised / likely to finish things when I am doing work for someone else.

Therefore this year I have started following a page on Facebook called ‘becoming minimalist’ (they don’t even use capital letters in the name, presumably to show how compact they can make life, shame about all the syllables, eh), and enrolled on their 12-week online decluttering course, as I don’t want to keep imposing on friends, and a structured approach by someone who makes a living of this will hopefully be even more effective. The fact that it’s online makes it much less terrifying than having someone come to my house and tell me what to do, it feels introvert-safe and like there’s less danger of counterwill kicking in.

A post published by the page today gave me the impetus to come back to this blog, because it brought up a lot of resistance, some of which may be justified but needs exploring. This is the post, a beautiful image of autumn leaves on the ground with the words ‘Don’t carry what you don’t need in your pockets, in your home, in your heart’**.

Immediately I thought of the little rucksack I take everywhere with me. “but, but, but… what if I might need it later?”. Example: I live in England. It seems sensible to always have an umbrella with me, and I feel smug when people get caught short and I am prepared. However, when I think about it, I very rarely use it. For one thing, I live in the South West, not Manchester – it’s really not all that wet here. For another, these days I cycle everywhere, so don’t spend much time outdoors in a situation that would make an umbrella convenient. On top of that, my winter coat has a perfectly good hood. So perhaps what I should do instead of carrying an umbrella at all times is only have outerwear that is hooded, try to remember to check the weather forecast before going out, and make peace with the possibility of getting wet every now and then.

OK, so now I’ve removed my folding umbrella from my everyday bag. I have hung it on a hook by the front door with another folding umbrella that was there just in case. I have therefore increased the clutter in my house! What to do? And here I am, in typical AD(H)D fashion, getting bogged down in incipient detail instead of focussing on the topic I set for this post – need.

So back to that.

A lot of people commenting on the Facebook post with similar objections to my kneejerk thoughts are parents who carry a lot of stuff that may be needed at some point while being out in the world by their predictably unpredictable offspring. I have a very high-maintenance inner child if no others, so can relate to an extent.

But what defines need? I guess the impact of the thing’s absence. For example, if you’re a city-dweller with a deathly allergy to bee stings, your EpiPen may only be useful once in a blue moon, but if you didn’t have it that day you could die. On the other hand, the roll of dental floss I carry ‘just in case’ (I barely ever floss at home, never mind in the wild)? Now back in the bathroom cabinet where it belongs.

And as a bonus, looking through my ‘essentials’ bag-within-my-bag, I found the long-lost tool that unlocks the front wheel of my bike. Somewhat spooky as just today I had been wringing my hands at having destroyed the front wheel skewer head using a Torx key instead. The proper tool still works. Finding things is one of the most satisfying things about tidying up, and I have just saved whatever it would have cost me to sever the skewer and get a new one!

*see ‘Scattered’ by Gabor Maté. Equally someone being there can be thoroughly distracting, it’s all about context.

**I had to type this out as there didn’t seem to be a text version, bad, ableist webmaster (unless I missed some clever newfangled invisible code in which case clever, clever webmaster).

New year more blog

Yikes! Where did January go? Just one day left to meet my new target of at least one post a month this year.

Obvious January entry: self-improvement round-up of the silent last 6 months. The main items were various job applications and interviews over the summer, followed by starting a new job in September. The bad news: no running since July, after I lost my momentum, no pun intended, due to a few weeks’ unwellness. But still cycling, even all through this month in spite of fearing a repeat of last January’s tumbles.

July: ‘Character Strengths’ workshop by Lightbox – the Happiness Project. Extremely valuable. My main character strengths are (in that order):

  1. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
  2. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  3. Fairness, equity, and justice
  4. Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
  5. Humour and playfulness

Take the test

August: Made a few extra pennies proofreading and teaching people to use WordPress.  Took a maths test at my local college to determine where I should start in order to become a well-oiled statistics-churning machine. I had decided this would be a good idea thanks to the character strengths reflection, my previous MBTI dabblings and the fact I enjoy working with data at work but feel stunted by my limited mathematical skills/knowledge.

September: Attended a work conference in Cork and took a few nice photos there. Started my new job – another part-time one on top of my existing one, bringing me back up to 33.5 hours. Exhibited as part of the St Werburghs Arts Trail. Started a maths course at my local college. Wrote an article for a local magazine.

October: Watched some wonderful Photoshop webinars, which were free at the time of broadcast from the US East coast, meaning 5pm to midnight my time. They not only taught me tons of things about Photoshop but also opened my eyes to the value of learning and using keyboard shortcuts beyond Ctrl+a/x/c/p and customised tool layouts in whatever application I use. Also worked out, thanks to my challenging new job, how crucial it is to me to feel competent and useful.

November: Kept giving my all to the new job’s raised-game requirements, including super-strict lifestyle discipline to keep my energy levels and alertness up – no gluten, no potatoes, no refined sugar, plenty of sleep etc. Fixed a puncture all by myself for the first time.

December: ‘Goals’ workshop by Lightbox – the Happiness Project. More reinforcement than new material, but did re-focus my mind on the importance of having goals in the first place, separating them out from aimless daydreams, breaking things down into smaller achievable components, and committing, even through something as simple as putting goals in writing. Started using Habits RPG as a result of this, tidying up bookmarks and recalling the success of a similar approach to dieting. Took test to get into fast-track maths GCSE class starting in January; only one in my class to pass. Became an official Twitterer as part of paid work for the first time. Finally got round to reading my book on speed-reading and Cordelia Fine’s ‘Delusions of Gender‘.

So that was the second half of 2014 – pretty busy. 2015 is starting out no different, not least as there are now not one but two evening  maths class a week, art group meetings once a fortnight and various new items on Habits RPG to keep up with!

Pyramid of needs

Screenshot of two maps showing two runs with different distances recorded for same run

WTH, Sports Tracker?

Exercise

On Friday I finally took a closer look at my Sports Tracker stats after one more session of clocking less kilometreage than I’d expect (almost half less than when I completed Couch to 5k). I was delighted to find that, although the app had not seemed to be suffering from my phone’s dodgy GPS, it probably had been, or was malfunctioning for some other reason, as it was somehow recording the whole time and itinerary but randomly moving the “official” Start point.

Having checked my usual route on Google Maps, I now know that on my shortest runs I still do 5.4k. So at worst I have not got any faster. On Sunday I tried the Speed podcast – I quite enjoyed the interval training, which made running a little less dull for me. I was taken by surprise by the shorter length of the session, only taking up the first half of my usual route, and elected to keep running back since I still felt up to it, didn’t fancy taking ages to get home and felt it would go towards making up for only running twice in the week. I’ve come a long way from doing as little running as possible.

Deezer has not really worked out – switched itself off after a few tracks on Friday, didn’t start at all on Sunday for the unassisted home stretch (this could have been to do with my web allowance status). I guess there’s nothing to it but to find more non-glitchy CDs with run-friendly tracks to rip (some of my old NIN CDs are so scratched they only produce some rather hideous “remixes” these days).

I have also had to face the fact that my oesophagitis, while not requiring medication most of the time, has been triggered by running even when I’ve been careful not to go out too soon after eating, which has made running more unpleasant than it needs to be. So I’ve made a note to have a preventative Omeprazole on running days for now, but as I’m always keen to avoid medication as much as possible, I will also try daily peppermint and see whether that can be enough.

And in biking news, my secondary lock got unusably stiff so I sprayed some GT 85 into it and now it’s working good again. A small thing, but it made me feel a sense of fluency to be able to easily diagnose the fault and fix it myself.

Education

My main educational event of the week was Prof. Tim Cole’s ‘Holocaust Tourism’ at the Watershed (part of the Past Matters Festival of History).

The talk appealed to me from a variety of angles – I am, in no particular order, a survivor’s granddaughter, a human rights fan, a photography and ethics enthusiast, and a friend of a repeat holocaust tourist’s with no interest in becoming one myself. In spite of not being the most ignorant person in these matters, I learned so much I scarcely know where to begin.

First of all, Prof. Cole made a connection between different types of Holocaust Tourism. The SS visiting ghettos at the time, looking for photo-ops that would bring propagandist caricatures to life, are uncomfortably placed in parallel with present-day visitors to Auschwitz queuing to snap their own stereotypical images. There are two iconic compositions ever recurring in visitors’ photo albums, which survivors overall do not see as representative of what arriving at or living in the camp was actually like.

The most common one is the view of the rail tracks running towards the camp, which has a fairly obvious subtext of “end of the line” etc., but also, Cole argues, represents the view of the Holocaust as a “crime of modernity”, the scale of it only possible thanks to technology, mechanical innovations, efficient infrastructure. We were informed that this is a fairly dated view from a historiographical point of view, as modern historians have been focussing on other aspects of the Shoah, such as neighbour-on-neighbour atrocities often driven by good old-fashioned greed and allowed by the less violent turning a blind eye.

Auschwitz now is all about absence – the emptiness of this once overcrowded place; the piles of material possession without their owners, arranged as exhibits to invite reflection on the staggering numbers of individuals tortured and killed there; the freedom to explore the entire space that prisoners were confined to a small area of. And as one survivor points out, the grass where once there was mud so treacherous that a recurring theme in survivors’ accounts is the constant struggle to avoid their clogs being sucked off their feet into it and lost. Well, not all about absence in that one of the many things the former inmates find disorienting when they return (often purely because their children have hounded them into it, according to Cole) is that there are Polish families living in some of the buildings, a result of the local housing crisis.

I loved the stories of the more purposeful survivor “tourists” – the ones that had a very specific symbolic gesture to make their visit a healing one. The guy who ordered a pizza from a nearby village to eat inside the camp. The one who just wanted to walk in, and then walk out.  The sisters who posed for a photo clutching the no-longer electrified wire fence. While briefly googling these stories up in case there were some links, I stumbled on this apparently polarizing video of a survivor dancing at various Holocaust sites. If I’ve ever so violently laughed and cried at the same time before, I don’t remember it. Polarizing schmolarizing.

But while survivors distilling profundity out of frivolity, celebrating the view from the top of Maslow’s pyramid where they were once buried below it foundations, delighted me, I did not love to learn that there is no code of conduct whatsoever for visitors to what is now the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and one Watershed audience member reported witnessing a group of probable neo-nazis going around it menacingly, in black and jackboots, pointing and laughing. I had a chat with her after the talk, as I wanted to know how other visitors reacted to this, how one *could* react to this constructively. She said it did not seem possible to do or say anything as they were very big and imposing and possibly actively looking to provoke a reaction. But she recalled that one of them seemed moved by a photo of a child in the camp. Is this why there is no restrictions on such visitors? The hope that some will see the error of their ways? It is of course easy to forget not to dehumanise the dehumanisers. But I just hate to imagine the effect this would have on a survivor visiting the same day. I can’t even imagine how I would deal with it; I’m barely starting to come to terms with the comparatively trivial fact that you can’t  go to a concert these days without people disrespecting the music and its fans.

There’s also the question of guided tours being offered as part of stag do packages or imposed on busloads of boisterous schoolchildren. But who am I to speak of dubious juxtapositions, sandwiching this review between a my latest jogging and digital imaging travails, purely because this is the blog’s format?

Photography

There was quite a spooky moment for me while Prof. Cole was taking questions, standing in front of the screen where his presentation’s last image was still being projected. The photo’s reference numbers kept etching itself on Cole’s forehead as he moved back and forth, chillingly echoing the tatoos of concentration camp prisoners. And I was faced with the dilemma – would it be OK to take a photo of this? My current position is that if I’m having to ask the question, the answer is probably no. The McCullins of the world have a way to answer yes, but it requires a direct human engagement I’m at best not ready for.

Other than pondering the photographer’s gaze at the event above, I have been carrying on with my Easton Arts Trail preparations. I had a few days of deep grump after my first batch of canvasses and enlargements arrived. They are hugely disappointing. There is a lot wrong with them, some my fault, some not so much, most to do with the process, one to do with the photo itself; some that will hopefully not stop people liking them if they don’t know what they were meant to look like, some probably more fatal. It was always a risk using a cheap online service – when I had a large canvas done at Clifton Colour in December, what I got for the much higher price was a professional engaging with me and my photo to achieve the best possible result. With Photobox, there’s a lot of guesswork and hidden features. If you’re going to use them, ensure the following:

  • Check the default settings that live in your Account Preferences (rather than be visible at the time of designing the product). You may wish to switch the default from “crop” to “fit” and turn off the “enhancement” feature, which a customer service representative assures me is what caused the canvasses to look washed out. I shall report on whether or not turning it off has returned correct colours and what if anything else has been lost instead.
  • Be aware they use a 1.5% bleed around the image so if you are not wrapping it all around the canvas, allow for this, otherwise you may have some unwanted borders.
  • Take the time to look at their FAQs on how to get the best possible results.

A problem I have found was down to the original image was one of the main elements in the composition not being in focus. This was made obvious in the enlarged image in a way that it had not been on screen or in the smaller print, and is more than likely due to using a single focus point when shooting, as recommended in a free workshop I attended a while back. From now on I will try to remember that this setting is not in fact always best. I deliberately eschewed any photo ops last week because of needing to focus on the Arts Trail work and because I still haven’t got round to editing all of last month’s pictures or even some taken in April! Canvas and small prints of one of my photos (closeup of disused train element) Canvas and small prints of one of my photos (closeup of disused train element) Canvas and small prints of one of my photos (closeup of disused train element) Canvas and small prints of one of my photos (closeup of disused train element)

 

Music to my ears

Exercise

I didn’t get round to trying the Speed podcast last week after all. But I’m very pleased with myself for managing to get three runs in despite the week’s social busy-ness, several late nights and two and a half days of gorging on bad, bad (but so good) foods courtesy of VegFest. Actually, the gorging provided motivation (damage limitation). I did two more Stepping Stones runs and one to my own music. The latter was the fastest, in spite of a lot of faffing with my phone. This was due to a last minute decision to make it a Nine Inch Nails-themed event, in memory of the Cardiff gig on Wednesday, via a few songs ripped from old CDs and/or the Soundcloud app. Having now looked into this a bit more, it seems Deezer will be a better soluion.

Photo of D lock secured to pannier rack with bungee cord

Bun-Dee

Talking of apps, my counter one has stopped working, so I’m now relying on Sports Tracker’s voice feedback for my “You’re a third of/halfway/two-thirds of the way through” alerts. That, and using the same route most of the time.

Cycling-wise, I’ve been trialling a new D-lock carrying system, namely a bungee cord wrapped around my pannier rack, after seeing this on someone else’s bike at the Space for Cycling rally. It’s working a treat so far, though I did snap the lock onto my finger on Thursday and it’s still a little tender (hurt quite a bit at the time). Also slight complication to pannier(un)hooking, but the improvement to the (un)locking faff makes it worth it I think.

Education

Only one educational event this week: the Bristol Cable’s Journalism with Integrity workshop led by Mike Jempson, a long-time journalist and unionist who is also Director of MediaWise and a senior lecturer. A sobering look into moral and legal considerations of reporting.

Mike Jempson’s exhortations of transparency, objectivity and rigour were very appealing to this INTJ, yet a reminder that good journalism is hard work because it means that something that sound like a good story with no reliably-sourced facts to substantiate it requires either finding said facts and writing in a  way that is “relevant to your neighbours, not just your friends”, or a pass.

Or, I got to thinking, the right angle. I’ve been pondering what I could do for the Dignity March after they issued a call for bloggers, social networkers and photographers to help publicise their campaign. I think the lessons from John Henley’s talk are particularly important for such a story and in the current climate. His only answer to my question about how to make more people interested in an unpopular subject affecting a minority was to show the human, emotional side. And this, he had told us earlier, is best done via video, while data is more easily digestible as a graphic, and text is best used for discussion of ideas; and a mix of the three increases a digital visitor’s “dwell time”. So I have a method; but the clock is ticking if I am to employ it in any way useful to this cause. Day jobs have their drawbacks.

Going back to Sunday’s workshop, the most shocking thing for me was delving into defamation/libel/slander. It made me realise how suddenly my life could be turned upside down for blithely expressing an opinion or other statement that someone/an organisation could consider/claim to be a threat to their reputation. I don’t know how common it is for independent bloggers to be sued for such things but I will definitely bear the three essential criteria for defensible defamation in mind: truth (ie based on undeniable facts), honest opinion (one that any honest person might share), public interest.

This got me wondering how the hell critics and comedians do their jobs, as I made a mental note to delete a gratuitous line in my review of Wednesday night on another blog that was purely, as far as I can tell, a matter of taste. And how, if it was on a blog people read, I would have had to post an apology instead of deleting the dubious material.

Also, bloggers beware – if you pre-moderate comments (ie choose which you publish), you are liable for their content even if someone else wrote them.

There are some very complex considerations when covering court cases, some of which went hand in hand with special privileges card-carrying journalists have in relation to them, such as permission to tweet proceedings (which may be retweeted but not commented on).

Talking of Twitter and responsible journalism, here’s a great thread where Kerry McCarthy MP challenges a Bristol Post headline.

Finally, an interesting concept was briefly brought to our attention: the “right to be forgotten”.  Apparently the expectation is that after 9 months people forget the details of most news stories and most of the people in them, but the digital age has made this less linear if people’s past is only a google away.

Photography

Popped into the Greenbank to meet the member of its staff coordinating the exhibition and have a bit of a recce. This was really worth doing as I got to see that there are two different types of wall space available (all bricks, but with a choice of just red and a mix of red, yellow and brown). As most of my large pictures will have rusty hues on unframed canvas, I have requested one of the multi-coloured walls so they stand out more. I’m now wondering whether this was the right choice and may revisit it, especially since I’ve given up on artificially extending the photos to make them wrap (most will have black edges, one of them dark grey ones).

I have now ordered a first batch of these canvases, using photos that looked good in the test prints; fingers crossed they turn out all right too. I found that upon closer inspection, the test prints that were disappointing were different from the way the photos looked on any of my devices, not just my dodgy desktop PC’s monitors. When I pointed this out to Photobox, they promptly gave me credit to have them re-done. This is scary in terms of not knowing what to expect from the canvases, but good news in terms of using my existing computer equipment for photo editing. Certainly can’t fault Photobox for responsiveness. Almost everything I ordered yesterday has been despatched today; I expect the thicker canvases to be on their way tomorrow.

I took some photos of Boney M (who were great) on Friday night at VegFest, having scored a free ticket – quite a challenge what with dusk, dark skin tones, sparkly outfits and one silky white one, and the crowd. I haven’t quite reached the optimal levels of photographer rudeness needed to get to the best viewpoint if I’ve not camped there before anyone else has arrived, and I’m not sure I want to. But I got close enough that one of the superfans leaning against the fence took pity on me and let me have her place for a bit. None of the pictures were really good SOOC. I must practice more so I can take pictures in any condition that don’t need (much editing), not least because of lack of time.

Photo of three current members of Boney M on stage at Bristol VegFest

I also didn’t manage to get a good group shot with all of them in

Back in the saddle

It’s been nice to take a break from the daily accountability of 30 Days of Biking, but, not unpredictably, the removal of this straightforward, externally imposed structure also left a vacuum I now need to fill with my own routine (until the next 30-day challenge anyway).

It’s not as if the last ten days have been devoid of self-improvement.

photo of pannier next to tools

Poorly pannier awaiting stitching expert next to electrician/carpenter tools

If it’s broke…

On 3 May there was the Bristol Repairs Cafe, where I watched Hilary stitch my poorly pannier back to some semblance of togetherness. As she didn’t have strong thread to hand I may have to have a go myself in the near future, but at least now I know it can be done. I’m aiming to make a habit out of attending these monthly as I have a large box full of things that need mending at home and never the confidence or motivation to do anything with them on my own.

Three free workshops

  1. Local food – Pollyanna or Panacea?“, an event organised by the University of Bristol as part of the Food Connections Festival. I’m not entirely sure whether I learned anything there other than the phrase “you can’t cross an abyss in two steps” (from one of my fellow participants), an interesting image though as with all metaphors, its application to other situations is debatable.
  2. Appreciation of Beauty” run by Light Box – the Happiness Project“). I’m pretty good at finding beauty around me already, as I think my obsession with taking close-up photos of rust demonstrate. Mostly I had been intrigued by the prospect of “making camera lenses from vibrant acetate” (by which they of course meant filters; mine unfortunately fell apart in my bag before I got round to taking a photo through it). We were told that beauty has measurable physical benefits (patients heal faster when they have a room with a view – I’m sorry, I don’t have a link to the peer-reviewed medical research this no doubt comes from).
  3. Smartphone journalism“, run by the Bristol Cable. This, unlike what I had vaguely expected (opportunistic use of phone camera for snap-and-tell), turned out to be a largely technical course on recording video interviews and vox pops. Out of my comfort zone in a number of ways, even though I had done similar things in a work context, but was not un-fun and I’ve been idly thinking about some real-life applications (watch this space). Even though the first thing we were told was that we’d have to invest in some kit because camera shake and bad inbuilt microphones.
photo of sign outside St Philip's recycling centre prohibiting walking in

Mixed messages? Be green, recycle – but always do it in a car. Mind you, says nothing about cycling in.

Feel the FOMO and don’t do it anyway.

The main area of self-improvement of this period, however, has been in all the things I have NOT partaken in – Bristol is teeming with free activities of all kinds this time of year, and will be so for months, to the point where I was getting a bit stressed from all the rushing around and also not getting anything done, be it writing, photo-editing, job-hunting or even just loading the dishwasher. So I’ve had to develop a similar attitude to these things as my budgetary “if it’s not essential, don’t spend money on it“. This means I have yet to attend anything to do with the Bristol Festival of Photography, but I did among other things

  • pull out the Virginia creeper from my back wall before it was all leafy again (not only was I told it was bad for the house, but last summer it attracted so many wasps I thought there was a nest in it), and took the cuts to the tip on the same day (knowing from past experience that disposing of garden waste becomes even more of a chore once it’s been rained on).
  • register to vote – cut it a bit fine and had to hand-deliver my form on the day of the deadline. I learned that the reason I found no letter boxes on City Hall to drop it into over the week-end was that they had all been removed in the 80s after poll tax protesters got into the habit of slipping excrement through them.
  • got the ball rolling for my Easton Arts Trail stall and inventoried my photo archive, making sure everything exists in at least two functioning and ordered locations. The next step will be to make sure all the ones that are important to me are in at least one cloud location, which can hopefully be both a backup and an online portfolio. Much as I dislike Flickr for various reasons, it’s probably the pragmatic choice.

Biking/running

  • Took squeaky bike to Women’s Night, it was quickly diagnosed as needing a good oiling in the chain. One more basic bike thing under my belt.
  • Got round to downloading Endomondo last week. It does the job. Signing up/signing in seemed slightly more complicated than with the other apps, but once past that hurdle, I found the app easy to use and reliable. I’m not sure about the voice that says “Go” once you press play. On the plus side, she sounds vaguely like Helena Bonham Carter telling Ed Norton to slide in one of my (many) favourite Fight Club scenes.  But it’s also annoying, as pressing play is not necessarily the last thing I do before actually starting. It would probably go away if I turned the Audio Coach setting off, but I quite like the little updates every ten minutes when I’m running, telling me how far I’ve gone and what speed I’m clocking – a definite bonus compared to Sports Tracker. Even though I’ve also been using ‘Round and Workout Timer‘ to tell me whenever I’ve done five minutes. With the latter, by the way, I really didn’t like the built-in sound, so used the facility to record my own; I found I had to shout at a high pitch for the sample to be heard over the music that keeps me going, so it’s a pretty silly sample, but I still like hearing it, telling me I’m that much closer to the end.
Animated gif of Marla Singer in Fight Club saying "Slide"

Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of quoting Fight club in relation to self-improvement.

Sports Tracker

Sports Tracker has been working better for me than Strava did, as it doesn’t lose time. However, a bug stops it communicating with the outside world (can’t share stats from my phone and others report the same problem on Google Play). In case you’d like to know, last three half-hour runs (+warm-up/warm-down walks): 6k, 4k (after a week’s break due to feeling rubbish), 5.9k today.

Another one of the app’s glitches is more endearing: a misplaced decimal point in the maximum speed figure. I doubt I reached 245.9 km/h today.

Maybe I should download Endomondo after all and attempt to take part in the European Cycling Challenge. So far it’s seemed like too much admin as my wheezy budget phone has a “one in, one out” policy for apps, and logging every bike journey feels like one faff too far.

And in related news, Faith No More’s “Digging the Grave” is particularly aptly named when used to run to.

30 Days of Biking #30 – Finish

I’ve done it! I have cycled (and written about it) every single day in April. Business as usual for many cyclists, and no doubt many of the joyful ones who took the Pledge had more exotic stories to tell. But an achievement for someone like me, relatively new to it, with a largely utilitarian approach as well as mixed feelings and experiences.

Perhaps most importantly, getting on the bike every day, rain or shine, bouncy or tired, and NOT FALLING OFF has been a big boost after the doubts that assailed me in January and caused me to take a two months’ break. I may not be the most joyful of cyclists (making me a bit of an interloper in the 30 Days of Biking community, as joy is in the membership description), I may never even regain the levels of joyfulness I experienced before The Scary Fall, but at least I have replaced dread with calm caution, re-acquainted myself with the practical advantages of cycling and even found some enjoyment in it again.

On this, my last mandatory-cycling-and-writing-about-it day, I attended the ‘Greenbank Gathering’, a community event at a local pub that included a stall by the local Bicycle User Group (BUG). This essentially consisted of a consultation by way of pen, paper and post-its.

Photo of BS5 BUG consultation document

If BS5 BUG got £1000 of funding, what should it do with it?

Photo of BS5 BUG consultation document

What would encourage you to cycle more?

Photo of BS5 BUG consultation document

The reverse of a list of cycling-related things; we were invited to put a tick next to the ones that mattered to us. Someone obviously felt a tick was not emphatic enough for this item, perhaps in light of it having been left till last and relegated to the back of the sheet like an afterthought.

I dutifully ticked my favourite items on the “one they made earlier” (training, repairs, secure parking), but didn’t feel I had much to contribute to the flipcharty things as my cycling bugbears (pun intended) are either up to me to improve or otherwise beyond the reach of local initiatives. What would encourage me to cycle more? A bike I can trust and the means to pay someone to fix/service it. A body that made light work of hills and felt comfortable in lycra, jackets that don’t cover its bum and shorts. Eyes that don’t need specs which in turn need a visor when it rains. A wider hallway so getting the bike out isn’t such a faff. Clear rules so everyone knows where they need to be on cycle paths. Cycle lanes that don’t end abruptly at the most dangerous point in the road. Less rain. No potholes. No deceptively lowered pavements that trip you up. No steady drip-drip of horror stories from other cyclists who’ve had a bad fall or been run over, of statistics showing that cycling is more dangerous than driving in the UK. Bike lights that are an integral part of the bike and get charged up by pedalling. Something less heavy and infuriating than D locks for security.

Fortunately there are plenty of reasons to cycle anyway, and plenty of support already available in Bristol (long may it continue). For now I’ll remain a cyclist/pedestrian/driver/public transportee, in whatever order happens to suit me at any given time, and while I enjoyed my 30 Days of Biking, I will also enjoy having the odd day off the bike. And writing about other things!