Cycling in London: the ‘mares and the myths

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Cycling in London has a bad rep. And anyone can see why; the roads are mental and it’s still recovering from a large string of fatal cycling accidents which occurred in November 2013 (those which led to BoJo’s typically well-thought-out response making it sound like he was blaming cyclists for being reckless).

A few years ago, the Census showed that the number of people living in London who cycled to work more than doubled from 77,000 in 2001 to 155,000 in 2011. And today, despite the tarnished image of the two-wheeled commute, many Londoners are still taking to the tarmac in escape of the ‘mares of TFL – and one of them was me a couple of months ago. In fact, I know my first journey was the 30th March because I remember being quite pleased with myself for timing it with the clocks going forward and having more daylight – completely by accident of course.

Here’s me cycling through Tooting Bec Common (the nicer part of my daily commute – and please note, I do not take selfies whilst on an actual road with cars because that would be stupid)…

Girl with cycling helmet

Always wear a helmet kids!

 

… and this is my trusty steed (bought from Amazon for £150)…

Ideal bike

 

I was bricking-it a little on that first cycle from Streatham to Victoria back in March. I nervous-sweated like a madman and wished that I’d brought a change of top to work with me. But now I’ve gotten used to it, cycling in can be the highlight of the day for me. When there are blue skies and sun-rays shining through the morning haze and making the dew glisten on the grass as I cycle through Tooting Bec Common, it makes me feel almost euphoric and I think:

Why did it take me so long to ditch public transport?!?! Who would choose a sweaty and crowded overground over this?!?!

And don’t get me wrong, there are some days (mainly when it’s hideously windy or when I’m hungover) when I wish I could just hop on the train and not have to concentrate hard in fear of my life. But they’re few and far between.

And on those wonky days I just remind myself of why my life has been better since I’ve started cycling:

  1. I’m saving myself £145 per month (this is how much a zones 1-3 railcard costs)
  2. I’m also saving myself £43 per month (this is how much I used to pay for the gym before I realised I cycle 12 miles everyday and probably don’t need much more exercise than that)
  3. I’ve lost 3kg and toned up my thighs nicely, without even trying
  4. I’m getting an extra hour of outdoors everyday
  5. I’m making public transport that little less crowded

So if you fancy giving cycling a go, here are some helpful tips:

  1. If you buy a second-hand bike make sure you get it serviced. The brakes on mine were knackered
  2. Get your bike serviced at Halfords, rather than Evans Cycles, it’s about £20 cheaper
  3. Wear a helmet – you won’t look cooler without one
  4. Buy some high-vis – and if you don’t want the jacket, go for the rucksack cover like me
  5. Google your route and go for the one that cuts out as many of the main roads as possible
  6. Then practice it on the weekend before you head out Monday rush hour (I didn’t do this and it was a mistake – I took me double the amount of time it should have because I stopped so often to check the route on my phone)

And generally if you have your wits about you (never listen to music) – following all the same road rules as the cars – and you’re wearing a helmet and some sort of high vis, you have no reason to worry. Myth dispelled, cycling in London is not nearly as scary as you think.

Post-Election Ponderings

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Green Party

Sorry I haven’t posted in over a week now, I’ve been drowning in the sorrows of having to face another 5 years of a Tory government…

On Friday, I went Kensington Olympia for The Place in the Sun Expo with work (I do marketing for a holiday rentals company) where we had a stand. One man, looking to buy a property, came up to me and said: “you must be pleased that the Tories got in – especially as everyone’s been waiting to see how the election pans out before they buy a holiday home.” It’s safe to say I said very little in response and he soon walked his pompous arse off in the other direction.

In general, London looked pretty down and there was a solemn vibe on the train home.

It’s easy to feel despondent and helpless when politics epicly fails you, but what we need to do now is channel that anger into action, so here are a select few of the many things that you can get involved with to get that voice of yours heard:

  • Go to Speak Up For The Love Of… Day Of Action On Climate Change in London, where you can speak to your local MPs about how they propose to protect the planet – 17th June
  • Join the End Austerity Now march in London, organised by The People’s Assembly – 20th June
  • Start volunteering for the charities who protect the values of the common people that the Tory government do not share – whether that’s tackling homelessness amongst youths by helping charities such as Depaul UK (seeing as though housing benefits for under 21s is being scrapped…) or by joining a Greenpeace group.

Something needs to change in the way we do voting in the UK. Under proportional representation, the Green Party would have 24 MPs, rather than the 1 (the wonderful Caroline Lucas) that they have under the current circumstances. Although, I suppose one saving grace is that at least we don’t have 83 UKIP MPs

1 day to go! #election2015

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So with one day to go I thought I better post about my thoughts on the election before the whole thing passes me by in a whirlwind of media-fuelled madness.

Firstly, this was posted on Twitter by my good friend Nick, and it’s pure gold. Trust Brighton & Hove to nail the anti-rightwing vandalism.

Brighton & Hove - you get it

Brighton & Hove – you get it

So, as you’ve probably guessed – like hopefully a load of people in Brighton & Hove will be doing – I’ll be voting for the Green Party on Thursday.

I'm even wearing a Green Party rosette.

I’m even wearing a Green Party rosette.

I live in Streatham in South West London and I’m pretty sure that labour MP Chuka Umunna is going to win the seat in my constituency – and he’s kinda cool so I don’t really mind. Jonathan Bartley of the Green Party is getting my vote on Thursday because he’s ‘an MP who gets things done’, he’s a community activist and gets stuck in with helping real working people so he actually might have an idea of what it’s like to lead a real working life.

I know that the Green Party will not win this election but at least my vote will accurately reflect the things that I believe in:

  • A publicly funded health service, free at the point of use
  • An end to privatisation
  • A focus on mental health, and making the resources for this a priority
  • An to end austerity, and instead implement a new wealth tax on the top 1%, a Robin Hood Tax on the banks, and the closure of tax loopholes
  • A minimum wage of £10 per hour
  • A cap on rent – especially here in London!
  • A huge reduction on tuition fees (or scrap them all together)
  • A better system for teachers and teaching (my mum is a teacher and she’s fed up with the bureaucracy and rigidity of the curriculum)
  • Cheaper transport – train fares have gone through the roof

And most importantly for me:

  • Protecting the planet. The government must take serious action against climate change because as much as we must try as individuals to live sustainably, it is impossible to get everyone on board around without creating nationwide policies and global pacts. Fracking is a waste of time – we need to ban it entirely and focus this money and energy into renewable technologies before we destroy the land we live on. In fact, we need to phase out fossil-fuel based energy generation all together.

You could call my vote a wasted one, but I don’t see it that way. The more people vote for Green Party in this election, the more the new government (whoever they will be…) will have to listen to a huge chunk of the public who care about the planet and are concerned for its future, and subsequently the more likely environmental issues will be at the forefront of parliamentary decision-making.

That’s my two cents out of the way.

One more thing I have to share with you. I popped home to North Wales this bank holiday weekend to see my mum. We visited my grandma on Sunday after she’d been to her Catholic church, and she gave me a letter which was entitled ‘The General Election 2015’ and was addressing ‘Catholics in England and Wales from their Bishops’.

Now, I’m not religious in any way, but this letter seemed to strike a cord. Apart from the bit where the Bishops are casually reiterating their homophobia with a mention of the ‘true Christian understanding of marriage’, it seems that a lot of the values within this letter align with Labour and Green Party policies. Eg. Where do you candidates stand on directly helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK and also helping them to transform their lives? and What are the views of your candidates on tackling climate change and supporting sustainable development? Yes Cardinal Vincent Nichols, represent!

But obviously all this went way over my G’ma’s head, as she’s voting for the tories.

Check it out… the last question in the letter asks: How in the light of the Gospel, can my vote best serve the common good? Is this a huge nod towards a Green Party vote? Green Party: for the common good…

The Catholic church are covertly telling us to vote Green!

The Catholic church are covertly telling us to vote Green!

 

Anyway, regardless of where your values lie and what you believe in, please vote tomorrow – we all have the power to make a difference so let’s not let that be wasted. If you’re thinking of not voting, watch this captivating video by Owen Jones for The Guardian.

Living the simple life in Lanzarote

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So this happened a little while ago now, back in March. But I seem to have been storing thoughts for this blog for a long time, without doing much about it.

James, my boyfriend, and I went to Lanzarote on the search for sun and surf. Neither of us have much money, being graduates and living in London, so we went for the cheapest accommodation we could on Airbnb – this campervan near La Santa, north of the island:

Campervan La Santa, Lanzarote

Our home for the week

Inside the campervan… cosy

It cost us just £7 each per night to stay in this little gem. It came with a make-shift outdoor loo, a solar powered shower, a cooking area sheltered by old wooden crates, and a BBQ.

Turns out, no one really needs more than that to have an amazing, relaxing holiday. In fact, sticking to the bare necessities might just be the only way to truly relax.

We had no internet or electricity, so James and I played Scrabble by candlelight and drew shockingly-bad pictures of each other with the pencil and notepad that was left inside the Scrabble box. We filled our evenings with trying to keep the wind (which is strong in the Canary Islands) from blowing out the flame on the camping stove and our nights staring at the stars (which are at their brightest in the Canary Islands).

Here’s James washing up while I lie in bed…

This charming vehicle is owned by Kerry and Kevin, a welsh couple who retired to Lanzarote a few years ago – leaving behind their stressful corporate lives to start a sustainable farm. They live in a finca, a short walk away from the campervan so James and I saw them pretty much everyday, and they charged our phones for us using their solar-generated electricity. Kez and Kev are almost 100% self-sufficient, apart from the use of their cars. Their lives are so stripped-back out there, consisting simply of farming, seeing friends, hiking and surfing.

Kevin surfs everyday, and the both of them look like the happiest, healthiest people on earth. Here’s a couple who are doing life right. Take note. We certainly have.