Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Tag: bike

A sobering week for Melbourne cyclists

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This has been a sobering week North of the Yarra with yet another cyclist doored (allegedly), and flung in under the wheels of a passing vehicle. Unfortunately, this accident was not an isolated incidence. This 1.7 km stretch of Sydney Road has one of the highest crash rates for cyclists in Victoria.

At this point, depending on your point-of-view, it would be easy to start a rant about inconsiderate motorists, inattentive cyclists, or careless drivers. But this would be unproductive. A man is dead. For his sake, we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Obviously, the situation on Sydney Road is complex – you have a narrow road, cars, cyclists, trams, on street parking, not to mention the many traders who rely on regular through-traffic. Clearly, greater minds than mine are working towards a solution. But as someone regularly cycles that section of Sydney Road, I thought I’d throw my wishlist into the mix.

  • No parking on this section of Sydney Road. Or no bikes on this section of Sydney Road. You can’t have both. The road is too narrow. Personally, I’d ditch the parking. It would help cyclists, trams and motorists. No doubt the traders would have something to say about this.
  • Better driver education – and not simply in realtion to door opening. I almost got cleaned up at a roundabout the other night (let’s not get started on blokes in four wheel drives). If I hadn’t been taking my usual precaution of not assuming cars will obey the law, I would also be lying in the morgue. A series of TV adds maybe? To alert drivers to the rights of cyclists on the roads?
  • Compulsory bike education for cyclists. When I started riding, I did a Cyclewise training course. In addition to basic road rules, how to signal and make hook turns, I was taught to look inside parked vehicles and pass with ample clearance, not to duck in and out of the parked cars, to take my place in the car lane with confidence, to wear reflective strips at night, and to use adequate lighting. Many cyclists ride as if unaware of these basic rules.
  • New cars built with cycle awareness alarms. Remember the days before beeping cars and microwaves? When it was possible to leave the fridge open all night? What about backing into a car space without accompanying audio assistance? It is possible to build warnings into vehicles. Why not do so for cyclists? Some sort of alert before people open their doors? A side mirror camera?
  • Better lighting. The main reason I ride Sydney Road is for safety. This sounds like a oxymoron. But only two years ago, a woman was sexually assaulted and murdered off this section Sydney Road. This makes me wary of using the Upfield bike path at night. I love my night rides along Sydney Road – the lights, cool air, crowds spilling onto the streets around pubs and restaurants feel. However, there are plenty of on-road bike lanes on the back streets. I have purchased a better front head-light for this purpose.
  • Educate taxis. Look I don’t want to sound peevish. But it simply isn’t appropriate to pull over, double park and talk to your mate on Sydney Road. The only time I’ve ever slipped on a tram line was trying to negotiate a double parked taxi.

Representatives from VicRoads, Yarra Trams, Public Transport Victoria, Moreland Council and Victoria Police met with Sydney Rd traders, bicycle users and residents groups have met in the wake of the tragedy. As a result, speed limit Sydney Road will be reduced to forty kilometres per hour. Speed humps will be installed and some parking spaces removed. City of Moreland, will also proceed with its plans to upgrade the bike path. Let’s hope it will be enough. That Alberto Paulon has not died in vain. For his sake, and for his family’s, for all future cyclists, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.

 

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An Easter without offspring

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Biskit's 'Great Escape' is becoming a regular part of our holiday routine. At some point during the bag filling, gate opening and car loading, he works out we are going away. He slinks about with his tail between his legs waiting for a chance. Our journey always starts with Andrew announcing. 'Your dog's gone, Liz.'

To which I reply. 'Well I'm not going on holidays until we've found him.'

We always end up leaving late.

I'm not complaining. I like the way new rituals replace old ones and, as this would be the first Easter Andrew and I have spent alone, since Jack was born in 1985, it was comforting for Biskit to set the ball rolling on an otherwise untrodden course. We had no chocolate, this Easter. An absence of noisy debate. And warmth – seeing as I have given up camping. We were not huddled around a campfire. It was bliss. And odd. Here's my wrap-up of events.

Accomodation

We stayed in Queenscliff, a seaside town at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. It was hard not to think about my novel as its narrative finishes shortly after a ship bearing it's fictitious characters enters Port Phillip Heads. I enjoyed seeing the fine mist over the morning sea, the low lying, sandy peninsulas, pincered around the bay like a crab. You'd be excused for thinking I'd engineered the location to suit my mood. The truth is budget and availability dictated our choice. Andrew says I have an uncanny knack for finding accomodation that is not quite good enough to be expensive and not dreadful enough to be miserable. The general result being a quaintly eccentric kind of bungalow with clean but not too modern facilities. This one happened to be in Queenscliff. Among the features holding this particular cottage back from its five star rating being the owner's possession of a dynamo label maker and the amateur art work adorning its walls. After realising the paintings were all done by the owner, I said to Andrew. 'That's it. If my novel doesn't get published we are buying a cottage, calling it a B&B and pasting excerpts all over the wall. Then some poor dab will be forced to read my work.'

Exercise – of mind and body

A strange feature of our child free lives is that Andrew and I are both pursuing an intentional level of fitness. Andrew's being far in excess of mine. This week he:

  • Rode to Lorne and back twice (180km)
  • Ran a marathon (as you do)
  • Went on a couple of 10km runs

I, in turn:

  • Did two 8.5 km runs with small intervals of walking.
  • A 40km return bike ride to Ocean Grove
  • An 11km walk
  • And an afternoon cycle from Sorrento to the end of Point Nepean and back.

I did far less exercise than Andrew but I can assure you I ached and complained the most. What more can I say? Some patterns are set in cement. While Andrew was competing in his individual man iron-man contest, I did some late-night, lazy-pyjama-morning bouts of reading. Here's my list:

  • The secret life of bees (magical and uplifting)
  • The kite runner (stark and strangely grounded)
  • The Welsh language: a history (riveting – no, I'm not joking. I couldn't put it down)
  • Aspects of the novel (a bit dull – I started this book ages ago and vowed not to let it defeat me)
  • To kill a mocking bird (I read this in school – it's way funnier and wiser than I remembered)

Outings and Purchases

It wouldn't be a holiday without outings and purchases

I went to the National Wool Museum in Geelong (while Andrew trawled the junk shops). This marked an intentional beginning to the research phase of my next novel. Through, I'd been to the museum before and, in truth, I started the research an age ago. This time, I am almost at a point where I can keep going forward. Most of the information at the wool museum referred to an era later than my mine. But sometimes, seeing the way an industry has developed helps you to know what wasn't in place in the beginning.

We caught the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento and cycled to the end of the peninsula. I had forgotten about the extensive fortifications built at the end of Point Nepean. Either Melbourne was in grave danger at some point in history or we had an inflated view of our importance in the overall scheme of things. I suspect the latter, as many men in uniform were involved. And that, in case you missed it, is my ANZAC reflection.

I bought a new pair of jeans (size twelve, slim fit, and yes, I'm boasting), two novels for my nephew's birthdays (which were back in January), and some Australiana type gifts for our trip to the UK in July (no, I'm not excited).

 

Now being a story teller I like to bring things back to full circle. You can therefore imagine my delight when I came across a fluffy white dog on my final afternoon jog. He had long silky ears like Biskit's and the same off-white colour with a hint of rust showing through his recently clipped coat. I saw his owner standing at the base of a hill hollering. The dog stopped, looked back over his shoulder and, with a cheeky white flick of his tail, scampered along the path, leaving his owner no choice but to lumber along in pursuit. I laughed. I'd played this game before. Only, today, I wouldn't be on the losing side. I waited for the dog to stop, cock his leg and glance back over his shoulder. Before he had a chance to resume his miscievious dance, I scooped him up. He didn't resist. He'd played this game multiple times too. With a resigned doggy sigh, he settled under my arm in a Biskit sized shape and permitted me to jog him back to his owner.

'Thanks.' She bent double puffing. 'I don't know why he does it.'

'Me either,' I said, passing the dog over. 'But I've got one just like him, back in Melbourne. He thinks it's a game to run away.'

 

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The dark side of creativity

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You wake before six, though somewhere in your manufacturer's instructions is a note saying you are not to be roused before eight o'clock in the morning. You cycle along the rain dark glistening Tarmac of Sydney Road, feeling renegade and daring. Only to find a whole sub-set of society at large in the early hours of the morning – waiting for trams, sweeping streets, sleeping in doorways, or hurtling down the all but empty side lanes, their tail lights bouncing off the walls of the surrounding buildings.

At the library, you are greeted with the news that the fire alarm has gone off for no particular reason. Before you even open, workmen are resetting alarms, switchboards and air conditioning systems. The fire brigade calls to report a malfunction in their access card. You check emails, sign cash sheets, and unpack crates but you can't seem settle to anything.

On desk, you have three inter-library loan requests from elderly people who were trying to get their heads around the idea of national and global online book databases, the possibility that their particular request may be out of print, the notion of joining a neighbouring library service online, and the concept of an eBook being a viable alternative. Despite your best efforts, you fall under the mesmerising spell of a woman who has made it her mission to continue the practice of paper notices on community notice boards in the face of digital advancement. You field her questions, trying to explain the situation, though you know she isn't listening. You try to reassure a young girl who is fretting about an overdue notice. You wonder at the depth of her anxiety. You explain the library's policies to her brave, blind, dignified father. You realise some young people are forced to grow up before their time.

At lunch time, one of your workmates lays a slab of chocolate on the table. 'It has been a long morning,' she says. 'We deserve this.' You think probably you do deserve it but…Thursday is a protein only day. You stand as if on the brink of a precipice. The slope below looks mighty slippery. But you didn't lose fourteen kilos by being a sissy. You walk away before you can start cramming hunks of chocolate in your mouth.

On your lunch break you realise you are tired – bone deep, dead dog, thirsty creek tried. And it has nothing to do with your six o'clock start. Or your busy desk shift. You think, perhaps, it's because you've put your manuscript in the post. After the flushed, new born, skin prickling elation of yesterday, adrenaline is leaking out of you like a sieve. You drink multiple cups of coffee. Eat bucket loads of protein. Ensure you are properly hydrated.

It doesn't help

Riding home through the evening streets, you feel rhino heavy as Melbourne tram. As freshly slaughtered as a carcass. You think perhaps you should hold onto your day job at the library. That you were a fool to ever start writing. You wonder whether it is too late to take up knitting. Or felting. Whether all your writing friends are secretly laughing. You realise this is the dark side of being creative.

 

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A general rant about trams, drunk drivers and respect for commuter cyclists.

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I'm a law abiding girl. Especially when I am on my bike. I almost never ride on the footpath. I don't run red lights and I always give way to the cars on my right. Why? Well the answer is obvious. It's me against the machines. I don't need to tell you who would come off worse in a collision. But there is another more idealistic reason for my sticking to the rules.

I deserve the respect of other vehicles.

Unfortunately, this respect is sometimes lacking. I learned this, the hard way, at a back street round-about.

The drunk old man in the clapped out sedan gave every appearance of stopping. But at the last minute he lurched through the intersection. I couldn't stop. Went sailing over his car bonnet. When the ambulance arrived I was pronounced unharmed. But the paramedic took one look at my middle-aged mum face, wicker basket and red polka dot helmet and thought she'd give me some advice.

'Perhaps you should ride on the footpath.'

'No.' The other paramedic snapped back before I can answer. 'She shouldn't have to ride on the footpath.'

'It would be safer.'

'But she wasn't doing anything wrong.'

The first paramedic shrugged. 'I'm just saying…'

'I can't ride on the footpath.' I found my voice. It's against the law. When I'm on my bike I'm a vehicle. I'm governed and protected by the Australian road rules.'

So, respect. That's where am I going with this people. And the Australian road rules. Or, more specifically, the ones pertaining to Melbourne tram users.

Let me give you a brief explanation.

In Melbourne we have trams. They run on the roads. In some instances there are small platforms for commuters step onto. But mostly when a tram stops, cars stop and tram users walk across the road to the footpath. A vehicle failing to stop could kill someone.

The tram system works well. Most people know the difference between a designated platform and an 'on road' stop. The system breaks down on Royal Parade.

Royal Parade is an odd thoroughfare. Four lanes in the middle, two wide, grassed and tree'd traffic islands, and then another lane each side. The trams run in the middle lanes. Their stops are on the traffic islands. The bikes paths are in the outer lanes adjacent to the footpaths. In my understanding, tram users have right of way in the middle lanes. They step onto the road. But they are supposed to cross the outer lanes at the traffic lights. If they do, bikes and cars are obliged to stop for them.

Trouble is, the tram users don't know the rules. They spill across the outer lanes as if they have just stepped out of a tram. Never mind me, with my middle-aged mum face, wicker basket and read polka-dot helmet. It's as if I don't exist. They stride out in front of me when I'm pedalling at full speed. Mostly, I manage to stop. Let's face it, no one wants a bike accident. But, one day, I might not be able to. And I don't need to tell you who would come off worse in that situation.

So, if you are a Royal Parade tram user, be warned. If you know a Royal Parade tram user tell them I'm out there. And if you are a commuter cyclist, share, like, re-tweet this message.

We deserve respect on the roads.

 

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A strange, surreal week involving long awaited goals and archaic parish practices

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This week has been a big one. So, big it's interrupted my blogging schedule. What? You didn't even notice. I have, in fact, been dancing with the devil.

Here's how the week panned out.

Saturday – I flew to Adelaide for the fiftieth birthday of a friend. Andrew had been working in Chicago all week. So, I met him at the airport. I managed to get through security without ringing alarm bells. Checked my bags. Didn't think I'd left anything behind. Though, when I met Andrew in the Qantas club lounge, he said. 'Gee. You're travelling light.'

'Yes,' I said, glancing at my bags. 'It's only one night.'

When the flight attendant called our flight, I gathered my belongings. That's when I noticed my back pack was missing. I made a piston-hearted dash to security, praying it would be safe in a cupboard somewhere nearby.

It was.

I filled out the necessary forms, showed ID and tried to make knowledgable comments about the contents of the back-pack. This was where I started to come unstuck. I told the man I had a power board in my back-pack, forgetting I'd transferred it to my Crumpler earlier. The man gave me a dubious glance. I started babbling. 'There's a cooler bag in there (don't ask) and a red toiletry case and my hearing aid drying out kit and…

The man held up a silencing hand. 'The cooler bag's enough,' he said, 'you're cutting into my lunch hour.'

At this point I was feeling pretty rattled. When Andrew announced he was ducking into the loo before boarding, I followed. Through one door. And another. Right until I caught sight of the man at the urinal. Andrew heard a gasp, he told me later. The sound of doors banging. When re-united, he shook his head and said. 'And you want me to travel to Europe with you?'

Monday – Andrew headed off for a week long hiking trip in Tassie. After I'd dropped him at the airport, I started typing like a woman possessed. Went to my writing group. Announced I would finish the re-draft of my manuscript the following day. Received all manner of appropriate, writerly encouragement.

Tuesday – I wrote like the devil was on my tail. Didn't quite get to the end of the final scene. With about five hundred words to go, I pedalled off to my Welsh class. Now normally, after class, a few of us have a drink in the bar of the Celtic Club. When my friend, Dai Tren, asked if I'd be staying. I said, no, in Welsh, I had only about five hundred words to write and I was going home to finish. At least, that's what I thought I said. From the incredulous look on Dai's face, I knew this wasn't the case.

'What? You only write five hundred words a week!'

I pedalled home with Lucifer still on my tail. At around midnight, I finished the final, polished five hundred words of my novel. I wanted to jump up and down. Shout. Break out the champagne. But…you know, it was only me and my dog. So, I did the next best thing. Wrote on Facebook. And Twitter…and any other social media outlet that would let me.

I didn't sleep much that night. I hovered like a star on the ceiling of my delight.

Wednesday – I edited the first five chapters without a hitch. They were brand new. I had decided, early on, to start the re-draft in a completely different place. I'd sweated blood over those early chapters. But they were in pretty good shape. It was the next chapter, chapter six, that caused a surge of panic. You see, sometime, while re-drafting I've learned to press the delete key. How to re-write without hanging on to favourite paragraphs. This chapter was my first unlearned attempt at this process and I saw with crushing certainty that it needed radical work.

My heart started to pound at this point, I kid you not. How was I going to hold my head up? I'd told people, I'd finished. This would take days to re-work. I calmed myself by journaling. Threw in a bit a of cognitive therapy (as my medical man in a cardigan would have recommended). Realised, I might not finish the edits this week. And that it didn't matter. I went to bed almost sure of how to proceed. More journaling at dawn (who'd ever write a novel) and I knew exactly what had to be done. I banged those three re-written scenes out in a few hours. You see, I've learned to kill my darlings with the unflinching nerve of a sadist

Thursday – I realised the devil wasn't such a good dance partner. I started to restore a bit of calm and order to my life. So much calm, that I failed to notice the address of our Vestry meeting. Rode all the way to the Vicarage, only to find the meeting was at the church, about five hundred metres from my house. Okay, so maybe there was a bit of demonic pedaling at this point. But, hey, it was a good workout. And we prayed before the meeting. So, I'm exorcised.

I'm enjoying being parish secretary (although, it could be the end of worship as we know it in the City of Moreland). It's great to be taking ownership of what is happening in our small community on Sydney Road. I sat tapping the minutes into my iPad, in an aura of good-feeling-ness, until, at the conclusion of the meeting, a vestry member passed me the minute book.

'You have to cut the A4 pages to down size,' the vestry member explained. 'And paste the minutes into this book each month.'

I glanced at the Vicar, expecting him to refute this statement. Turned disbelieving eyes on my fellow vestry members. 'The rules say the minutes have to be kept in a bound book,' someone explained. 'It's not much cutting. We print the pages out single sided.'

Now call me naive. But when I took on the role of parish secretary, I imagined typing minutes, drafting letters, archiving official documents. Making a meaningful contribution to the life of the church. But never, in my wildest dreams did I envisage cutting down A4 sheets of paper and pasting them into a book.

It was odd. But, hey, I can do odd for God. I took the minute books, feeling like I'd morphed into a female version of Frank Pickle from the Vicar of Dibley. As I pedaled the short distance home, I found myself wondering when these strange, keep-minutes-in-a-bound-book rules had been instituted. Some time back in the twentieth century, perhaps? Before PCs and printers and desk top publishing? For I must confess, as I laid those minute books on my dinner table, I couldn't help wondering whether, despite losing my bags at the airport and walking into the mens's toilet, I was, in fact too sane for the Anglican communion. 🙂

 

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Hanging out – a week in so many words

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You've had a momentous January. First, ten days of bronchitis during an extreme heatwave. Second, a week at the beach with a rowdy family group. Whilst there you relax. Clock up thirty years of marriage. You return home and the reality starts to sink in. You haven't been to the gym for two and half weeks. You haven't touched your novel either. Or kept up with the whole social media thing. Added to which, you've eaten way too many Celebration Meals.

You attend a church meeting Monday night. Welsh class starts back on Tuesday evening. You also have your brother staying with you. You know that for missionaries coming home is always confronting. You also know that Sydney Road is nothing like Main Road, Blackwood. So much ink, he tells you with a shake of his head. When did that happen? You try to listen and be sympathetic. You talk about his work. His plans for the future. You have your own ideas but you try to be tactful. You fail. You can't sleep because of this. You go to work exhausted. You are pleased to meet your new job-share partner. But it's hard getting your head together. You deliver books to a local aged-care facility and leave without returning the keys. Drive back. Read the roster wrong. Forget about the afternoon staff meeting. Your new job-share partner asks about your life. She says I get the impression your are a creative person. You think, that's a very generous assessment of the situation.

Despite your inefficiencies, the two of you cover heaps of ground. You feel wasted but you manage to converse in Welsh at the SSIW Google Hangout that evening. Your brother makes a positive comment about your language acquisition. You make excuses about how rusty you are. But deep down you're ginning like a gate at the compliment. You're on the bike by seven o' clock the following morning. You make loads of decisions regarding work processes. You manage to read the roster correctly. And turn up for your desk shift. After work, you catch the train to Flinders Street. Do some shopping. Cycle home in the cool of the evening.

At home, two excited dogs run to greet you. That's right, your daughter's dog is staying for the weekend. You make the mistake of letting the dogs sleep in the house. You wake up around one o' clock to a volley of barking. You fumble for a light, the keys. You put the dogs in the garage. You wake up early, worried about them in the heat. You have washing to do. The dishwasher to unstack. You sigh, remembering all those Celebration Meals. You decide to do an extra BodyStep class. You're hopeless. Someone has to help you adjust your step. You mutter something about having had a break. You shop. Cycle home. Unpack the groceries. Hang the first load of washing. Chop some rhubarb. Unstack the dishwasher. And then you do what you always do. You write something. And once you start writing you realise you're tired. It's been a big week. You drink some coffee. Hang a second load of washing. Unstack the dishwasher. Bring the bins in from the street. You survey the summer parched garden. And promise yourself a lazy evening.

 

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Four girly tips for every commuter cyclist

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The other day I received the following message on Facebook:

U went out in the dark on your bike on your own?

The week before someone had said to me:

Well done riding to the city on your bike.

On telling someone else that I’d been knocked off my bike and gone over the bonnet of a car without laddering my stockings, they said:

You wear stockings on your bike?

In the face of such incredulity I feel that I need to explain. I ride my bike most places. Out to dinner, to the gym, grocery shopping, to the hairdressers, to the Doctors, to church, to small group, to Welsh class, sometimes even to work.

If you’d predicted this a couple of years ago I’d have laughed in your face (so, I’ll excuse your shocked responses). But the unlikely has happened folks – I am now a commuter cyclist.

And as I have been living this lifestyle for over a year, I consider myself entitled to offer a few tips on the subject.

I hope you are ready? We’re going for ride. And it will be deeply insightful.

1) you gotta love your bike

I started out on an old bike because, though I’d been telling everyone I was going to ride my bike everywhere once we moved to Coburg, no one believed me. Even I didn’t have faith. So, we rigged up his old hybrid bike of my husband’s. After a few weeks of riding hunched over with cramped shoulders I said to my him.

‘Some people sit upright on their bikes.’

‘You’re not supposed to sit upright.’ He explained. ‘It slows you down.’

Well, yes, this made sense…if you were training for the Tour de France. But not if you are Lizzie long legs mooching around the back streets of Coburg. In fact, I would say speed is less than ideal in the city traffic. It makes you vulnerable to flung-wide car doors and haphazard pedestrians (this is a bonus safety tip by the way write it down).

In the city speed is not essential.

Three months after becoming a serious commuter, I bought myself a retro-style upright bike. My husband and daughter came to the shop with me. I had a model in mind – not top of the range, but aluminium (for lugging up city steps). It had seven gears for the occasional hill and, of course, a wicker basket. As I wheeled my new bike through the door with an air of lordly pride (clever literary allusion in case you were wondering), I turned, looking back over the rows of gleaming handle bars.

‘Have I chosen the right colour?’ I asked my daughter

‘Mum,’ she said. ‘It’s red.’

She was right, of course. My bike was red and I loved it. And, I can’t emphasise this enough folks, you’ve gotta love your bike.

In the pebble hard rain, you’ve gotta love your bike, and in thirty-six degree heat with sweat streaking on your cheeks, you’ve gotta love your bike. When balancing it in a crowded railway carriage, you’ve gotta love your bike. Ditto, when sitting in the gutter with your third puncture for the week. And and when you’re pedalling hard against the wind. It’s just you and those two wheels against all those kilometres.

You’ve gotta love your bike.

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2) you gotta get the gear

I started out riding with a high vis workman’s vest and a battered old helmet. As winter approached, I began to mull over the dilemma of staying warm and, more importantly, dry. Once again, I put the problem to my husband.

‘My winter coat is too thick for cycling.’ I pointed out.

‘Wear your camping coat.’ He replied.

Now this was the wrong answer (though, on the surface, it may have sounded like good advice). The camping coat was light-weight and waterproof, perfect for the bush. But, it was black, I mean, that’s a safety issue, right? (second bonus tip: justify all cycling purchases on safety grounds). And, it had all those freezing-cold-line-up-for-showers-smoky-campfire associations.

No, I couldn’t possibly face the winter in my camping coat.

I did my homework. There aren’t many girl-friendly commuter cycling outlets in Austealia. In the end, I bought a red trench coat with a polka dot lining from CycleStyle. It’s Dutch designed and made with waterproof seams and slightly longer arms for cycling. Not a camping coat. A city coat. Perfect for dinner and a movie in Carlton. I teamed it with a Nutcase helmet from Velo Cycles, an adjustable high vis harness and a cheap pair of waterproof pants from Katmandu and some retro style panniers and I was all set. And, here’s the thing (you may consider this bonus tip number three), a Lycra clad cyclist is a common sight in Melbourne and motorists don’t tend to cut them a lot of slack. But ride an upright bike with a red trench coat and a polka dot helmet and, I tell you, people steer clear of you.

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3) you gotta heed the signs

Despite the formidable protective powers of my polka dot helmet, I’m not a big fan of city traffic (bonus tip four – have realistic expectations of your equipment). The trouble is, I quickly worked out that the Merri Creek and Capital City trails are great for Sunday afternoon leisure riding but not if you actually want to get anywhere. There are too many bends, bridges, drains and steps for serious commuting. There are, however, heaps of on-road bike lanes – on the back streets of Moreland, in the city and out into the eastern suburbs. I carried laminated squares of council transport maps around with me in the early weeks like a tourist or, worse a middle aged-empty-nest-wannabe-city-girl from the suburbs. Then I realised there were all these signs.

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I now follow them dot-to-dot all over the city.

4) you gotta set yourself up

Finally, I’m not a morning person. I am practically comatosed until I’ve drunk my first plunger of coffee. Even then, my movements resemble a bear emerging from hibernation. Apart from having breakfast and getting dressed I’m not capable of much mental activity. If I’m commuting to work, I always pack my panniers the night before and, here’s the essential part, I keep make-up, toiletries and a hair dryer in my locker. This makes mornings easy. In fact, (here’s a secret), I don’t even brush my hair. I just roll out of bed, main-line coffee, pull on my gym gear and pedal. After cycling for almost an hour, I’m awake and zinging. I can then shower and do the beauty thing at the library.

So that’s it, folks – my explanation plus, four essentials, four bonus tips, a beauty secret and a clever literary allusion. What more can I say? Apart from, happy cycling!

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Like the curious case of Benjamin Button

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I haven’t blogged for a while – in fact forty two days worth of while. I expect you’ve been wondering what I’m up to. What? You hadn’t noticed my sad little absence from the blogosphere? I’m shocked and saddened and, so that you don’t become too unnerved by my absence, I’m here to fill you in one what has been happening.

Firstly, we’ve moved house.
Secondly, we’ve been on a holiday in the Grampians.
Thirdly we’ve had guests from Switzerland.
We’ve also celebrated a friend’s fortieth birthday in Sydney.

In fact, I’d have to say we’ve been out more than we’ve been in. Busy despite our newly purchased slice of tranquility.

But perhaps the biggest life change of the last forty two days ago has been my bike.

Now, I made a lot of noise about my intention to cycle more once we moved to Coburg. But I don’t think anyone, including myself, actually believed this would ever happen. When Andrew handed me my bike helmet on our first night in Rolls Street and said: enough, let’s go and get a gyros. I wasn’t quite prepared for it.

What now? I gulped, looking down at the helmet as if it had teeth. Can’t we just walk the first night.

No. Apparently we had to start as we meant to go on.

We donned our helmets and headed towards Sydney Road.

I have to admit, before this fateful night I’d scarcely ridden a bike in the last twenty five years. I’d stopped at the tender age of seventeen (when I first got my driving license). But putting my helmet on and riding out to dinner that first night and then packing our grocery shopping into my panniers to ride home again felt like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I felt myself growing younger by the minute.

Since then, I haven’t been able to get enough of the experience.

I’ve ridden to Welsh in the city and home along Sydney road. I’ve done a Boroondara Cyclewise course and overcome my phobia of public showering. I’ve ridden to work. Eaten at Beatbox, joined a yoga class and shopped at the Coburg night market. In between, I’ve walked my dog, finished the SSiW intermediate course and danced to Fflur Dafydd’s, Martha Llwyd in my living room.

But most importantly of all, I’ve been writing.

Yep, that’s right. My muse has followed me to Coburg. In fact, I’d have to say she rather likes it here. I’m putting this down to genetic programming. I mean, think about it? Before my parents emigrated, the family had never lived in anything bigger than a semi-detached house in Essex. Yep, that’s right small – so this empty nest, masterfully renovated Federation cottage suits me perfectly.

In fact, I’d even go as far as saying I’ve probably been overwhelmed for the last twenty five years.

Not that I regret the experience – kids, guinea pigs, school fetes, and trivia nights – a woman needs those things. But now my nest is empty and, although Andrew is looking around wondering where his audience has gone, wrth fy modd or in my element as the half-Welsh-woman in me is wont to say.

So folks, this blog is a great, big long winded way of saying I’m fine but you may not hear from me for a while. Oh, yes, I know it’s heart breaking. But don’t fret. Just think of me at my writing desk, drinking coffee, taking power naps, or smiling like a gate as I ride the wide flat streets of Coburg, and know I’ve got a novel to write.

Hopefully, 2013 will see it finished.

Tan fy mlog nesaf – Hwyl Fawr!

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