Category Archives: 100 Miles West

Born To Run

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I moved to Bristol a year ago now, and one of the few negative things I can say about it, is that it is heavily populated with smug, lycra clad, iphone armband wearing runners. People don’t just go running here to avoid gym fees like normal people, here they share running stories, and osteopaths; they go running together, and alone; they go running before work, after work, in their lunch hour and then they still go to the gym.

Ok, so it’s a healthy city. I don’t have anything against that, of course, in fact it’s one of the many reason I moved here. My inactivity during The London Years was woeful and as 40/mortality approaches my desire to live long and prosper increases. It’s just the obvious enjoyment these people seem to get out of running, how it makes them feel, both physically and mentally, how they leap out of bed in the morning to squeeze in a half hour sunrise jog while I burrow deeper and deeper into the recesses of my duvet for that extra 10 minute snooze. It’s just so…bothersome.

But with the start of the new year, the appearance of a bit of holiday weight, and severe breathlessness when walking up a gentle slope, I decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

As I was putting my tracksuit on this morning for my first outing, my mind was giving me a lot of shit. ‘Janes don’t run,’ it said, ‘when was the last time you ran?’ ‘You’re going to look ridiculous’ ‘go back to bed’ etc etc and then something hit me. Janes DO run! For 2 months in 2011, in New York, this Jane ran every other day around the Jackie O Reservoir in Central Park and freakin’ loved it! The memory burst through the shit and gave me a moment of pure joy. I can do this!

So off I went, on a beautiful crisp and sunny morning, with my zeroto10km app, and my patient boyfriend jog/walking beside me. And do you know what? It was ok! Strike that, it was better than ok, I will reluctantly admit I actively enjoyed it. To be honest there was not a lot of actual running as the app takes a sensible approach with 1 min running followed by 1.5 mins walking, repeated for half an hour, but I did get out of breath and go red in the face and felt those tiny crazy endorphins pinging around the dull grey matter of my winter brain.

Basically, it worked, and I got a small insight into what all that smugness is about. So here’s the plan. If I run 3 times a week for 14 weeks following this app I should be able to run 10km by April. That’s a nice achievable goal, right? Ok it remains to be seen whether I can repeat this in early morning drizzle but I’ll give it a go.

I don’t think I am quite qualified to be one of the smug brigade yet, but I’ll put my hand up and acknowledge that maybe the problem is not actually them being smug but more likely a projection of my own feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame, lack of willpower blah blah blah which allows me to hate them rather than myself.

So. The transition from Londoner to Bristolian continues a(slow)pace. It’s not all tie-dye and moon cups and there’s a good chance this move could do good things for the body as well as the… sole.

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100 Miles West – Here I Go Again On My Own

I had planned to start this blog by echoing (ok, copying) Hugh Grant’s opening voiceover in About A Boy – by stating that whoever said ‘no man is an island’ was talking a complete load of bollocks and that in my opinion all men – and women – are, in fact, islands.

Furthermore I am proud to be an island and wouldn’t have it any other way. I have lived on my own, travelled on my own, got drunk on my own (should I admit to that?) and basically hung out on my own, happily, for as long as I can remember. I am not quite as good (or bad?) an island as Hugh Grant, as I do have a lot of friends, a brilliant family and the odd lover who ensure that I am never ‘lonely’, but I essentially live my life alone and on my own terms.

This is how I like to see myself, but of course, the reality is a bit more complicated than that.

In 2011 I went travelling on my own to Mexico. I had a fantasy of being a solitary writer, secluded from the world, left alone with my imagination to create the stories that the constant buzz of my normal life had not yet allowed me to explore. I arrived in Isla Mujeres, ready to be an island on an island, a woman’s island no less.

I found the perfect apartment on the ocean, opened my laptop and…nothing. Nothing on day one or week one, or week two. So instead I spent my days walking into the tiny town, speaking worse that pidgin Spanish mainly to the guy in the laundry, having a beer, sitting on the beach in blazing sunshine or watching the tropical storms roll in – ok it was idyllic and I was happy-ish, I think, but I was also going slowly mad. I was too shy to strike up conversations beyond ‘una cerveza por favor’ and the lack of interaction with people, of normal conversation, of any connection to anyone who might be able to help me if I was in trouble did not fire my imagination in the way that I had hoped. Instead it made me paranoid, fearful, and more deeply insecure than I had felt in years.

When my friend Anna arrived in week four, I was mean to her. I didn’t understand what affect the last few weeks of self-imposed solitary confinement had had on my mental state. I was brittle and cold – reverting to all of the default personality traits I use when I feel under attack, not understanding that I was actually under attack from myself. I had gone into battle alone and was beating myself up over and over again – too much time to think and navel-gaze is no good for anyone.

A week with my Anna brought me down from the ledge though, and after she left I took a PADI diving course where I made some friends and one special friend (yes, it was the diving instructor – I really am that much of a cliché!) and had a beautiful, interactive, supportive, if not immensely creative, remaining six weeks.

My move to Bristol is a very different thing of course. Despite the fact I am suddenly detached from the amazing support network that exists in my corner of London, I do have friends here and many family members are down the road. However, I still prepared myself to go into battle alone, steeling myself to be strong, independent and, most importantly, on my own. I don’t NEED anyone, I came here so that I could support other people, be a rock for my family…It is hard to admit, once again, what a massive wanker I can be, but it turns out that I was not brought here to save other people, they are, of course, much more likely to save me.

I have been in danger of losing myself again – despite repeatedly saying that my move to Bristol was ‘no big deal’ it turns out it is quite a big deal after all. It’s tough to uproot your life and start putting roots down somewhere new, especially when you have been in the same place for 15 years. But it’s going to be okay because I am finally willing to admit that I might need to lean on people when things are a bit tough.

Between family, housemates, old school friends and wonderful ‘friend dates’ I have been set up on (dates with friends of friends who live here), I am maintaining my tenuous grip on reality and finding out how lovely it can be to have people to rely on. Also, being here doesn’t mean I have to cut myself off from my previous life entirely – I can still dip in and out very easily.

I am not sure I will ever fully give up my island status, but I am willing to admit that I do actually need to be part of an archipelego or to at least have a few bridges connecting me to the mainland…that’s what ‘it’s’ all about after all. As long as I can use the drawbridge once in a while so I can rock along really badly to Whitesnake.

100 Miles West – Busy Doing Nothing

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time goes when you are not working and how damn slow it can go when you are.

I have been in Bristol for three weeks now and having predicted I would be employed by this point I am quite horrified to realise I have hardly started looking for work. After one disappointing rejection I need to get myself out there, but I have been SO busy doing nothing I just can’t find the time.

Ok, it is possible that I may have watched 24 hours of Dawson’s Creek during the past few weeks (possible I said, I will never fully confirm this horrifying admission) … and have maybe slept for between 10 and 12 hours a night… and I might even have been to a yoga class or two but even all these activities should not have combined to make me incapable of sorting out my future life?

I feel a little bit like I am on holiday, a little bit like I am skiving and a lot like I am avoiding reality, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as I am prepared to recognise it for what it is and stop trying to find lots of things not to do.

Here are some fun things I have discovered about Bristol while I have been so busy doing nothing, weirdly they all begin with L:

  1. The library – The first thing I try to do when I arrive in a new city is check out the library. Bristol library sadly doesn’t rank among the greats, but it certainly has a certain charm. A lovely quiet and old fashioned reading room and a temporary exhibition space showing the history of tin mining in the South West. Perfect.
  2. Lovely people – everyone is so nice! This is not just a reflection on moody London, I have been to many places where people are not this nice, but here people just seem to understand that it is nicer to be nice and engage in 90 seconds of idle chit-chat than to cut to the chase. Refreshing.
  3. Lakota – is still going! The club where I mis-spent my youth and did things which I am too embarrassed to admit to even now is still going from strength to strength. It is an institution! Because of this I hope that one day I can proudly say I             a            at Lakota
  4. Long walks – I have always walked, wherever I am, but everyone seems to enjoy walking in Bristol and ‘going for a walk’ is an actual regular pastime. The countryside is a mere spit away and very beautiful it is too. I’ve seen red deer and everything.
  5. Light – ok, this may be a bit of a cheat because the evenings ARE getting lighter throughout the country, but it just feels like there is more sky here, and therefore more light, and light is very important indeed.

Oh and last but not least – hot boys, lots of them. Okay, boys doesn’t begin with L, but Lots does, as does Lust, and Love so who knows what this crazy city has in store.

I’m excited to see what happens when I stop doing all the nothing I am currently doing and actually start doing something with the open and unpredictable future stretching in front of my fortunate arse.

100 Miles West – Movin’ Right Along… or not.

So here I am. I have moved. I am in Bristol. I am not in London. Before I got here I was aware of the emotional difficulty involved in moving – in uprooting – your life and making such a significant change. What I wasn’t aware of though, was the physical difficulty involved in moving. I mean actual physical inability to move. Every final step I have taken in the last few weeks has been accompanied by a deep gutteral gravitational pull, which I have been completely unable to control.

I started okay, as the packing of the boxes for the removals men began I did it with a spring in my step, some tunes on the radio and a smile on my face. However, as I neared the end of this packing ritual I could hardly get off the sofa to carefully wrap the remaining plates in the kitchen which then remained unwrapped until the wonderful removal man (and old family friend) arrived and did it for me in the twinkling of an eye while I looked on from the sofa. Frozen.

It didn’t get much better on my final day at work either. I was up to date, had completed solid handover notes and was ready to leave when 6pm rolled around….but for some reason I just couldn’t leave the office. I kept finding more things to pack and more goodbye emails to send and in the end I was dragged to the pub by a colleague. But it didn’t end there. I am an occasional big drinker (ahem), but not generally with work colleagues. On this night though, I didn’t want it to end. Knowing I might never see them again I suggested that old classic ‘Be At One’ for ‘one more drink’ and we were pretty much dancing on the tables until 2am. I could have stayed out with them longer but they dispersed, exhausted and broken and a little bit in shock by their sensible colleague’s transformation..

Then there was the final dinner party with my close friends which started off full of sophistication and ended with me on my knees Sweet-Child-Of-Mine-air-guitaring at 3am before being dragged into a taxi.

The next day I had to pack up the car with my final bits. There were only a few bags but it took me over 2 hours. After every trip to the car I had to sit down. Not because I was especially hungover but because every trip was taking me one step closer to the departure time. The moment of reality. When I finally got in the car and departed (4 hours later than planned) and arrived outside the house which was to be my home for the next couple of months, I sat in the car, paralysed, unable to take the next step which would lead me to my new life. Eventually my new housemate came and knocked on the window having seen me arrive and given up waited patiently for me to come to the door.

A trip to London the following week didn’t help as these steps were repeated over and over again and it is actually a wondrous miracle that I find myself here, in Bristol, sitting in a café and not on my sofa in my studio flat digging my nails into the parquet flooring while being dragged out by the heels by my new tenant.

But here I am, and it feels pretty good. It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other, apparently – that’s all you can do after all and doing that simple thing has got me here and will get me to where I want to be. I am sure of it. One day at a time.

100 Miles West – Leaving London’s Never Easy

When I told a friend recently that I was leaving London his reaction was one of absolute shock. “But you leaving London is like the Ravens leaving The Tower of London! This is bad news, very bad.”

I mulled this over for a while. Might my departure from London really indicate that the Crown will fall and Britain with it? Or to put a (slightly) less dramatic slant on it – can I thrive in any other city but London? I have a habit of making decisions instinctively and not always recognising the impact of those decisions until they are right on top of me. And right now this move seems to be no different.

I have strong reasons for moving which include family, quality of life and a career gear-change but I am not leaving London because I have fallen out of love with it. I am not tired of London and therefore tired of life (thanks Samuel Johnson, that stupid observation probably kept me here much longer than I should have been). I truly love London. It inspires and challenges me. I am settled here. I have the best friends I could ever wish for here. I have a good job. I have my own place to live. I don’t mind the tube or the buses, the crowds or the bustle, the grumpy, gritty streets or the myriad other reasons most people generally give for leaving this crazy city. It wouldn’t be London without them. The doorstep living – with immediate access to the best theatre, cinemas, restaurants, bars, 24 hour shops which will give you a bottle of overpriced Rosé at 3 o’clock in the morning – is something you struggle to find elsewhere in such abundance.

So if I have the perfect London life on paper I have to wonder why I have spent the last four years trying to leave. For anyone who has followed this blog from day one (god help you) you will know that I spent the first year of it plotting and scheming ways in which I could move to New York. Being unable to get a visa, not having the stamina for student-hood again or the balls to ‘just go and see what happens’ I have had to abandon that dream for now. I then, somewhat reluctantly, took a job in Glasgow, predominantly to be closer to my mother, but found it to be a more brittle and unforgiving city than London. And at least 10 degrees colder. And yet I accepted a second and third contract there. During that time I was still officially living in London and commuting at weekends, but there was clearly something drawing me away. So now I am looking 100 miles west – to Bristol – a city I only previously knew from going aged 8 to the ice-rink and aged 18 clubbing to Lakota, but which I hope will give me what London seems unable to.

The Ravens at The Tower have their wings clipped to prevent them from flying too far away. Superstition surrounding that ancient stupid curse means those poor birds are destined to flit around as a tourist attraction, never able to fully spread their wings and fly. I can relate to that. It seems that despite my affection for London, I have not managed to fly in this city during the past fifteen years, and I just know that there are things I am capable of which I will never achieve here. I don’t know what those things are yet, but I am looking forward to finding out. As long as the Kingdom doesn’t crumble first.