Tag Archives: second chances

The cycling pants of shame

London was not built for cars.  It’s a well know fact that driving your clunker through the city is the slowest and most expensive way to get around.

The fastest – and incidentally cheapest – way to travel is on two wheels.  It was with this in mind that I decided to brave the rough roads of London and embark on that momentous expedition:  my first cycle to work.

Previously I had only been able to gawp in envy at the fit elite – all honed arms, and sculpted thighs – as I trudged from the tube station, chocolate bar in hand.  Now I would be one of the noble few.  I could see myself wizzing past the commoners as they watched my bum disappear into a distant land of endless cool.

Being a cheapskate, I had acquired my little sister’s bike in exchange for paying our dad 40 quid to cover a window she broke (I’m not the only one in my family with the ‘oops!’ gene.)  However, my sister had originally bought the bike when she was 14 years old and into pink.  Florescent pink.

In spite of this rather embarrassing inconvenience, I was undeterred.  Armed with my little-girls bike and an oversized helmet my local bike dealer had duped me into buying, I set off into the unknown.  I was certainly prepared.  I had packed some spare underwear to ride home in, just in case I sweated more than usual.  Knowing that this was a distinct possibility (due to the fact I hadn’t exercised in about a year) I had packed the oldest, grimiest, most granny-like pants and bra I owned.  What a pro.

Things were going well.  The sun shone as I headed towards Paddington, a vision of enviable cool.  As I turned the corner into Spring Street, a rather attractive bearded gentleman shot me a grin.  ‘Amazing.’ I thought to myself ‘Even dressed up like a demented 12 year old, I’ve still got it.’

It took me about six seconds and a hundred yards to realise what was really going on:  My backpack had come unzipped.  My tights were wrapped around my back wheel.

My underwear was strewn back down the middle of the road.

Let me level with you.  Spring Street is littered with cafes and restaurants – basically involving quite a lot of people sitting outside, people watching.  Right now they were watching me.  Me, and my skanky underwear.

In a mad panic I threw my bike to the ground and ran back down the street, my oversized helmet bobbing from side to side as I picked up my abandoned items.  With every ounce of dignity I had left (er… not much, for those of you who were wondering) I jumped back on my bike and rode away.

It’s been three long and difficult years since ‘the incident’.  After therapy, prayer and a lot of strong liquor, I finally feel that I’m ready to move on.  So, at the end of this month I’m going to face my fear: buy a bike and re-try the cycle to work.

I’ll be packing good underwear.

Advertisements

The moment of truth

I’m standing in the queue in Starbucks, waiting for my turn with the frappachino and herbal tea requests.  I’m here for a meeting.  In less than two hours I’ll be at another meeting with an MP – a former Home Office Minister who knows his stuff – and I’m exhausted.

I jolted awake at four this morning from another horrendous nightmare.  My job involves thinking about human trafficking and exploitation day in day out and unfortunately this is not without its side effects.

I also have another minor problem on my hands.  At 11am this morning I realised there was a small hole in my skirt.  Unfortunately this hole is located directly over the butt area.  I quite like my bum as it is, but my skirts do have to stretch a little to fit and tend to give way at inconvenient moments – for example, during 11am meetings with lots of men. (This is me we’re talking about – I mean, my skirt was never going to wait for an all-girl slumber party.)

I quickly excused myself from the manly meeting (walking backwards out of the room as normally as possible) and rushed to my colleague, Gemma, to ask for her opinion.  Is the hole noticeable?  Can I possibly get away with it for a whole 30 minutes in the presence of an esteemed politician?  Her contorted expression, trying to hold back a pained smirk, confirmed the answer as a firm NO.  Five minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom with a safety pin holding my skirt together.  Unfortunately this was not the world’s most sturdy piece of metal and within minutes I had an undone pin protruding out of my bottom, ready to puncture anyone who got too close.

So here I stand in Starbucks – exhausted, slightly traumatised, with a safety pin sticking outta my butt.  If I’m looking for a sign that something in my life has got to change, this is it.


Every stain tells a story

Last Summer I did something that really scared me.  I packed a bag and headed off to hang out in a monastery.  No internet.  No mobile phone.  No TV.  Three days of walking, thinking, and reading.  Aside from God, I didn’t converse much with anyone apart from one chat with Father Vincent, a chilled out monk who gave me a few tips on how to be… silent.

I’ve never been great with silence.  The very thought of being still terrified me for years.  I was the girl who watched TV whilst checking twitter whilst downloading the latest Radiohead album.  Distraction was my addiction.

However, my time in stillness had quite an odd effect.  After three days of being cut off from the outside world several things became apparent.  One of the most notable was that I no longer felt the need to wear make up.  In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt happier with my appearance.

I believe there were probably several factors that contributed to this, although I can’t deny that the absence of a constant stream of multi media must have been instrumental to this change.

As a woman, I’m constantly bombarded with the pressure to be ‘perfect’.  Anything less is just not good enough.  Adverts, touched-up magazine covers and glamorised TV dramas all play their part. The average person living in the Western world is exposed to hundreds, and according to some reports – thousands, of commercial messages every day. They say ‘Hey there! You’re inadequate as you are, but if you buy this mascara you’ll be acceptable again.’  Lucky you.  Consumerism steals our dignity and then sells it back to us[1].

Apparently we all need whitened teeth, abnormally long eyelashes, hardcore abs and minimal body hair.  And by the way, we need to spend our hard earned cash on perfect lives too – the car, the holiday, the latest brand of toothpaste.  Last year’s model is no longer powerful enough to banish the unwanted disease of imperfection.

However, I’m not sure that perfection is necessarily where beauty lives.  This doesn’t just apply to physical appearance, but all aspects of life.  Sometimes it is within the broken, messed up things in this world that we find that which is most captivating.  We just need to learn how to see without the constraints of a restrictive culture.

So here’s my confession.  I am not perfect.  I don’t think I’ve ever painted my nails without smudging the edges.  I fall on my ass roughly twice a month.  It’s not elegant.  I have noticeable stains on my front teeth and my elbows bend in the wrong direction (no kidding).  After some consideration, I’ve decided to hang on to these special features.

Perfection is… well, it’s rather boring really, isn’t it?  Should we all just conform to an acceptable ‘type’?  I’m not sure I want to be like everybody else.  The stains are staying put.


[1] I wish to God that I came up with this line myself, but I stole it from a dude with ginger dreadlocks.