Cycling update

Recently I shared with you my love of social cycling, and all the hard work that goes into it, and fun that comes out of it. I had ridden an epic (for me) number of 7 rides in 2 weeks with Wheel Women last time I was talking to you, but where to from there? When you hit a personal best, whatever follows can feel a bit mediocre.

So here’s a little update on my riding. After that two week period, I rode 2 rides the next week, one the week following and one ride the week after that. Since then I haven’t ridden much. Oddly this has coincided with unofficially and then officially starting work. I’ve either been working on the day that a ride was scheduled, recovering from work the day a ride was scheduled or the weather hasn’t been that great. It sounds a lot less impressive, doing less rides, but each ride was significant in its own right.

One ride was at sunset along St Kilda esplanade which was stunning!

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We had to change route without warning when 40 joggers turned onto the path in front of us (seriously forty!!), and I loved finding our way through the quaint Port Melbourne suburban streets until we got to the beach. We stopped for the fish and chip special up past the yachts, then rode back in the dark with lights. I hadn’t ridden with lights at night before, and I really wanted to try that with others before attempting it on my own, and yay, I ticked that off the list. I have to say whizzing along in the dark on a balmy night along the beach then into the city was pretty thrilling!

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Then I voluntarily signed up to do a big long hill climb lesson one Saturday, figuring that after the very hilly Torquay circuit that I survived, I should strike while the iron was hot and keep working on my hill climbing skills! What’s the saying, sucker for punishment? Or something like that. There was a large group of us and I think that we each learnt something different, relative to our own ability and the experience of climbing that hill. Most of all, we had a go. Having a chance to try something is such a big part of Wheel Women. I wouldn’t think of doing a 8km hill with an average 5% gradient by myself. I probably wouldn’t try it with a friend; I most definitely wouldn’t try it with my husband! He’s an amazing hill climber: lean and muscular, terrific cardiac capacity, mentally tougher and most of all 50kg lighter than me!! Yep, that’s the difference between us! But being so competent, I think his coaching wouldn’t translate as well as from someone who has been through the learning process themselves relatively recently. Maybe I’m wrong, but I like attempting it this way, with several female coaches who have gotten into riding in the last few years and recently trained as coaches. The climb was a bit torturous, and I admit I put my foot down about 7 times for a “breather” or for a sip or five of water or to let the lactic acid burn in my quads abate, but I didn’t stay stopped. I had a good friend riding alongside coaching me; she really helped change how I thought about doing the ride, and I did better because of her!

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By the end I actually felt like I could go back another day and using her techniques I could get to the top by myself; but it’s more fun with friends. I was last to the top, but boy did I make up for it on the way down!! I was second by a small margin and rocketed through those curves; now that’s bike riding!!!

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For the third ride we rode 40km in a loop around Geelong via the chocolaterie. I was so proud of this ride. Despite the wind we rode into at times, I felt really strong and mostly rode up in the front group going faster than my usual average speed, and the couple of hills we came up against I hit hard, and punched up them. I found it really interesting riding around the refineries, the suburbs, and the coast of Geelong; and the chocolates were delicious! I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in skills and experience on these few rides.

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The last one was just for fun! A loop from Docklands to Port Melbourne around our usual spots: the apartments on the marina, the industrial zone, up to the beach for a moment of longing for a swim in better weather, a stop by the pink lake at Westgate Park and back for coffee and treats at a gorgeous little bakery opposite Etihad stadium. And then I went and drove off with my phone on the roof!! But we’ve already covered that.

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Well believe it or not that was back in the middle of April!! My last ride was the exact day before I started unofficially at work, and finally today I got out there again! And it was a stunner. We started in the thick fog that has been hanging around every morning this week. And it was cold! I pulled up my riding jacket over my chin and mouth after they started to go numb, fogging up my glasses and causing condensation and I began to think that a balaclava has some merit for winter riding! And I forgot my gloves!! Argh, not great with metal brake levers. But boy was it stunning along the river with the fog. Especially when we got to the outlet of warm water from some industrial place, and watched the steam coming off the water into the foggy air; beautiful. We stopped off for a look at Stony Creek backwash and the birds in the mist, especially a graceful pure white Great Egret, REALLY made me wish that I had my camera, especially when there was a lady there with a really nice lens.

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But the most stunning scene of all was when we got to the Williamstown yacht club which is always lovely, but with this morning’s fog the boats were somehow perfectly clear but behind them was nothing. Usually there’s a view across the bay to St Kilda beach and all the houses, but with all the fog it was like being at the edge of the world…just the boats and then nothing, a hidden horizon. Somehow it was so mysterious, and I was dying to photograph it!! So I did, but my phone shots are nothing on what I could have taken with my digital camera.

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The reflections today with the fog and lack of wind were PERFECT! Just perfect. But then would you believe, by the time we had coffee and started cycling back it looked like this!!

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No words.

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Downer

When  you suffer with anxiety or depression in any of their various forms, it doesn’t take much to get you down. In fact it takes a lot to keep you up!

I find this with a million stupid little things that turn a perfectly good day into a gloomy do! Usually its something that I’ve done that I’m annoyed at myself for, and I just can’t let myself off the hook about it. My husband can just cruise through these things and flick them off, just like water off a ducks back, as the cliche goes; it also helps that he doesn’t seem to make dumb errors in the first place! We have a joke that he’s always right…and it’s nearly always true! But I find myself berating myself over and over inside my head, mentally abusing myself for being so idiotic, self flagellating for my mistakes and lack of memory, or of thought, or of judgement. That just can’t make for a happy day.

I spent a lot of time with a psychologist when I first got sick and one of the main points of therapy involved reframing my thoughts, and interrupting a snowballing chain of thoughts. Reframing means to look at a situation and how you usually react, and try to consciously change your reaction to it so that you put yourself through less stress and hurt, and therefore are more well mentally. Interrupting a snowballing thought process means recognising when you’re starting down a line of negative thinking that is escalating to the dramatic and trying to stop it early, while its something that can be dealt with, before you’re almost to the point of a panic attack. I spent a lot of time working on this, and when you consciously and deliberately look at your thoughts, you do recognise a lot earlier where you can intervene and save yourself a lot of drama! Having said that, it does take a lot of energy to do this at the beginning. It gets to take a little less effort as you get more used to it, and you have less of these thoughts because of dealing with them in a better way. Eventually its more of a habit, but as soon as you think to yourself that you do it automatically and don’t need to put so much effort in, it can creep back in.

It is almost indispensable to have another person around who understands the work that you are trying to do with your head, and who can remind you what to do when you’re working yourself (unintentionally) into a bit of a tizzy! Someone who can remind you to breathe, that the drastic thoughts you’re having are just that: drastic thoughts; and of the techniques that you’ve learnt. I say it all the time but I have the utmost admiration for people on their own dealing with their beast. Kudos, and I don’t know how you do it!

Today started out as a great day. I had a good ride with my Wheel Women. We rode from Docklands to the pink lake in Westgate Park and back, and I had a superb raspberry jam donut (apparently it’s a “bombolini” according to this bakery) to top it off! I also had one of those San Pellegrino chinotto flavoured sodas in lieu of my usual Coke; that was not a highlight! Tastes like medicine!

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I was planning on doing a bit of extra riding today. I had planned to ride from Hawthorn velodrome to the start point of the Wheel Women ride, and then ride back there after the finish of the ride to add in some extra ks, but a little glitch with snoozing the alarm prevented me! Sometimes that would be enough to get me down, but I smiled through that mix up. I mean, just the fact that I wanted to do extra ks is a pretty good indicator that I’m sitting well up on the scale of blue.

I got to the start almost on time, and marvelled with everyone else at how stunningly beautiful Docklands and the water looked in the unexpected sunshine and after the rain. I really expected to get a bit wet with rain today after 2 days of LOTS of rain, but we lucked out. It was beautiful through the whole ride, and we agreed we could just keep riding and riding on a day like this where it was cool so we wouldn’t overheat, dry so we didn’t get cold with wet, not windy…perfect! Shame about me not getting up on time to do the extra riding; it would have been the ideal day for it. Oh well, let’s enjoy the ride I’ve got going on right now, instead of worrying about what I’ve missed. And there is some great re-framing and preventing of snowballing thoughts! And so the ride was just lovely!

And then, the error. The trigger.

Stupidly (it’s always stupidly by the way) I put my phone on the roof of my car.

I know!

Always a first. And last. Then some other first. Or another first if I just haven’t learnt my lesson. And so on.

3 blocks down the road from my car park, I went to put my phone in the holder and an adrenaline shot went right through my gut! I instantly KNEW what I’d done! On the bonus side, I’d been creeping along slowly since leaving the car park, hadn’t cracked 40kmph, maybe not even 30kmph…maybe it was still on the roof?!?

No!

Dulp!!

So back I go to re trace my wheels. I couldn’t get there fast enough; itching at every red light and pedestrian crossing until I got back to where I had been parked. There was a ute there now, so I got out and checked under it for my phone, once, twice etc. Then I carefully drove even slower where I’d driven already, retracing, scanning the street and gutters, wishing, hoping and more.

And back around again, and a third time! Nothing!! ARGH!!

And that’s how it starts. The adrenaline shot depletes a bit of your good mood, the persistent bad results of looking and not finding get you down more, knowing this is all your stupid fault hacks away at your confidence and suddenly you’re berating yourself and the day is not the same day it was before. It’s plummeting down through the levels of good into mediocre and before you know it, it’s not a good day anymore.

Although lately, I’ve been well, and more resilient. I knew this about myself, but this incident proved it without doubt.

I was SO bummed out over this stupid accident which should never have happened in the first place! How could I have been so thick as to put my phone on the roof?? I knew it was a bad idea, and I did it anyway. Who does that?? Typical! I make a rule, and I break my own rule, and of COURSE this is what happens! It’s okay to put the keys on the roof, because you can’t leave without them. But your phone? Idiot!

This is how my thinking goes, left to its own devices. Berating, accusing, bullying, incredulous of myself, throwing insults.

This is where the challenge lies. Putting my psychologist’s knowledge into practice in this moment and not letting the snowballing of negative thoughts get off to a head start. Re-framing the thoughts: instead of calling myself an idiot and stupid and dumb, realise that accidents happen (even if it’s often and always to me!) and this was just that, an accident, and give yourself a break!

So, having proved that my phone cannot be found and doesn’t seem to be anywhere that it should be, I head home. On the way I think of half a dozen reasons why having my phone right now would be so good: to find out the best route home, to take a photo of the city shining in the sun, to pop a starter note for this blog into my notes section, to check my calendar for what else I’m meant to be doing today, to use the Optus app to put my phone plan on hold, to call my hubby and let him know about my phone!! It really is my right hand and its going to be a bit painful without it. Stupid, stup…no, we agreed: not stupid; unfortunate. Accidental. Breathe.

But then, halfway through sliding down the blue scale into the depths, I slowed up and stopped. I stopped. That hasn’t really happened before. And it wasn’t like I put a heap of work into it, into stopping my thoughts. But my head is just in a better place lately, and this didn’t seem to be as big of a deal as similar events have been before, where I could wrap myself in guilt and grief for a whole day. Now I was stopped somewhere around the “okay” mark, still realising the inconvenience and bother I’d caused myself, but not fatalistic like many times before. What is this new feeling? Is this being well? Could it be?

I got home and flicked a message off to hubby about being out of phone contact. Then got out one of my comforters and I was pleasantly surprised that before long I was smiling and feeling quite serene about the whole thing! What is this? It was still annoying etc but it didn’t feel like it was taking up my whole world with distraught stress but like it was just one part of the picture. I like this feeling!

I believe that this is how you know you’re well. You can recover from events that happen, instead of collapsing into various levels of despair and misery. I’m not sure how this state came about, but I feel like the chemicals in my brain are finally aligned and things are just easier. It’s very exciting!! To say the least.

As to what happened with my phone? Hubby told me all the things I could do and so I went through Google’s ‘find my phone’ function online (just search for it) and I used that to lock my phone, to put a message on the lock screen to say please return my phone and to give the number to call, and to track my phone. I have to say that was the most satisfying and frustrating part, watching someone driving my phone along. It travelled the Bass Hwy towards Phillip Island via the koala park, and then stopping at the Nobbies, and I was unable to do a single thing about it!! But it was awesome to be able to watch them in the first place. I made a full report to the police and they were very helpful. But then my husband got a phone call from the person who picked it up: turns out they were a coach driver who found the phone in Docklands super close to where I’d driven past, and they planned to bring it back the next day! How kind and honest! So all’s well that ends well in the end. My husband biked from his work into the city in his lunchtime to pick up the phone, and everything is as it should be once again.

Lessons to be learned:

  1. Do NOT put your mobile phone on the roof of your car in any circumstances!
  2. Do leave your GPS function on so that you can track your phone if you ever lose it, it was accurate down to 6 metres at one point
  3. Do be aware of Google’s find your phone functions
  4. Ideally always have your screen locked, but know that you can lock it remotely in an emergency
  5. One day, after so much pain, stress, medication, therapy and time, you will be well again. Believe.

Wheel Women

This past week, and the week before that, were all about the bike. And the women. And the rides. And the cafes. Put it all together and it’s a winning formula; there is almost nothing I could recommend more! And it’s all due to the women’s cycling group Wheel Women. Have I mentioned them before? Once, twice?? But they’re always worth another mention or more because they do amazing work getting us women on bikes and keeping us there.

I have to say that my involvement with (possibly read: dependence on) Wheel Women is one of the main reasons why going to Canberra for 3 months from September to December 2016 was hard, and why coming home was so good. I really didn’t know if I’d keep up riding in Canberra without my supportive group. Wheel Women’s director kindly put me onto a cyclist in Canberra, but her group was more of a mountain bike club, and the road cycling group she referred me to rode at 6am on a weekday; enough said! She offered some one on one rides, but in the end I sort of bumbled around until I found a few places on my own. It was a nice offer though.

Of course I took my bike, helmet, cycle computer, bike clothes and other accessories (there a lots of add on products that you “need” when you start riding!!) with me to Canberra. But having the stuff with me, and actually using it are two different things. I’ve proved this before. Having to think out where to go, how to get there, what the route will be like, what to do if I got stuck halfway due to accident or mechanical, if I’m up for it etc becomes a barrier very easily. With Wheel Women, organised rides are thought out, planned and advertised by someone else. All I have to do is turn up at a specific place and time and follow the leader; that holds a lot of the attraction for me to keep up riding, I’ll admit. Is that laziness? Maybe. But it’s a winning, working formula and I think it’s an attraction for a lot of us Wheel Women members. I did try to find some new riding locations in Canberra, and I fell in love with Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding bike paths so that kept me going on rides a bit. A few local rides to brunch or dinner, to sightseeing near our place etc made up the rest of the rides, twenty in all; not terrific for 90 odd days but hey I did something more than look at my bike on the verandah!

As much as I was looking forward to riding with Wheel Women again when I got home to Melbourne, I didn’t get straight back into it because we were away a lot during January; but now that I’m back into it, I feel like I never left. It has amazed me though how quickly your bike fitness diminishes when you aren’t regularly riding. You really do have to do a couple of rides a week to maintain your level, and it is worth maintaining that level of activity so the next bike ride feels better. But on the plus side, it only takes a couple of rides to get back to where you were; it’s a constant state of flux.

What has been the most wonderful thing about returning to Wheel Women rides, aside from the excellent rides, is the response of Wheel Women members. I’m not saying I’m anyone special, or trying to be pompous, or blowing my own horn but the lovely, sweet response I’ve received to being back on rides has been overwhelming. I honestly don’t know whether I feel more humbled or thrilled or excited or overjoyed or loved at each next ride. Catching with my old friends and being welcomed back so warmly; meeting new members and striking up new relationships. Man, it is SUCH a great group of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a group of women that are so unanimously supportive of each other, tolerant of others at a lower level, encouraging to all, utterly friendly and so focused on building each other up regardless of individual personalities. It’s such a privilege to be part of Wheel Women!

So, here I am back riding with my cycling group and loving it! But it’s not a group that you make friends and develop relationships with, it’s each of the special women that have made my day each time I’ve gone out riding with them. These women are really special treasures: women who’ve overcome their fears, their past experience, their lack of experience, other people’s unhelpful opinions, their weight, their age and more to tackle what is essentially a sport but for most has become a means to transport, to a broader social life, to permanent skills and, most importantly, to independence. Who knew that so many benefits could come out of trying out cycling?

I certainly had no idea of the depth of experience and privilege I would come to experience when I started cycling with Wheel Women. I wanted to attempt to start bike riding again; that was my entire ambition. A few years hiatus from cycling followed a bad fall off my bike onto my chin and hand, narrowly missing falling into a 3 lane road in peak traffic. This left me shaken and lacking confidence to return to commuting to the train station to travel into uni. Several years down the track, I was off work on sick leave but having been used to working hard, full time I wanted to do something, anything, to fill in a little time in my week. My hubby was riding lots, commuting to work every weekday, long rides on Saturdays and 2 or 3 early start weekday rides plus any other chance he got. I thought it would be nice to get started back on my bike slowly before attempting anything too drastic with him. Knowing my fitness wasn’t great, and I’d recently stacked on a LOT of weight, I wanted a quiet, friendly environment without too much expectation and did I get a lucky break falling into Wheel Women’s arms! They wrote and taught the 8 week program administered by another agency, and so I was involved with them right from Day One. A very good way to start. I’ve talked about some of those early days before and you can read about it in my other blogs.

Today I want to share the rides I’ve done in this 2 week period. Between the beginning of the week before last and the end of last week (a fortnight all up) I have done 7 bike rides, each and every one of them has been with Wheel Women.  I should say that this is the most I’ve EVER ridden in a similar period. It’s also the only time I’ve gotten on my bike to do a ride THREE days in a row. So I’m kicking goals, as they say, which is not the point of the piece, but I just wanted to make sure you realise that this isn’t a typical or usual or expected run of rides. All the same, I’m thrilled that I did it all, and it’s more points on some fictitious blackboard somewhere out there in the universe that tells me whether I’m doing good or not. I’m doing good! Brain, take note. You seem to very easily let the good things slip through the net while retaining the smallest bad things for my constant reminding. Well, here are some solid facts for you as proof that I can do it, okay?

13th Warburton rail trail, 34.5km

Chatting to Alicia at Woori Yallock

This is cycling to me – riding with my friends and chatting at any opportunity

15th Moonee Ponds Creek trail, Upfield bike path, Capital City trail, 18.5km

Mixed business cafe with the girls

The face of cycling to me – smiles, happiness, water, and a new cafe menu to check out

17th Specialized sale, Capital City trail, Moonee Ponds Creek trail, 16.5km

oo ooh so much stuff

RIDING to a BIKE clothes sale with my BIKE buddies and shopping for BIKE stuff galore…now how to get it home??

18th Otway and Great Ocean Road classic, 30.5km

yep struggling a bit

This is Wheel Women – when the going gets tough, there is always someone beside you keeping you company, someone at the top of the hill encouraging you to get there, someone behind you letting you know you aren’t being left behind and someone at the finish line cheering. It inspires me to dig deeper.

 

23rd Merri Creek trail, Main Yarra trail, 25km

me and kathy

Friends on every ride

24th Williamstown, Maribyrnong River trail, Bay trail west, 30.5km

Classy ladies Sylvia, Robyn, Judy, Alicia, Lyn

We ride, we find thrones…what can we do but be glorious, Lycra-clad queens of cycling?

25th The Women’s Ride, Gardiner Creek trail, 13km

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The aqua and purple team of Wheel Women teaching 30 women how to change a flat tyre after a ride along the Gardiner Creek trail – what a terrific morning!

That’s 168.5km all up in a fortnight in case anyone is counting. I’m sort of stuck at the 30km per ride mark which is my next thing to tackle, alongside mastering hills. But it’s not really the point is it? The point is the company, the enjoyment, the fresh air, the friendship, the new cafes, the new sights and places; the personal achievements are kind of a lovely bonus.

P.S. Aren’t you glad there are keen photographers around to capture all my best moments?! All photo credit to the Wheel Women Facebook page, most likely to a coach or ride leader, or fellow member. Enjoy!

 

Canberra Day 78 to 81

[Monday 28th November – Thursday 1st December, 2016]

Okay so I’m hopelessly behind, but by some lucky chance if I cram a week into one, I’ll be up to date. At least the first half of the week anyway.

Monday 28th November, 2016

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. 7 year itch anyone? Not even slightly, well not most days anyway. We’ve been together since 2003 so I’d say the 7 year mark has been well and truly crossed; nearly doubled even. Although the last 3 years of being sick has probably put the most strain on our relationship of anything so far! Actually no probably about it, it definitely has been the hardest thing for the two of us to get through! At times I’m sure we didn’t know how we’d get through it. And we probably aren’t through it yet, well of course not. But we’ve gotten to a kind of plateau point right now so we’re enjoying a bit of a reprieve! But we both know today isn’t going to be a big celebration cos hubby’s work has really ramped up and this is going to be a LLOOONNGG week for him! Cue long nights for me waiting for him to come home…yeah right! I got things to see and do. And then later on once its died down we’ll have a lovely meal out or something. In the meantime I’m trying to get a park to check out this bike shop, but can’t get near it. In my attempts I find this beautiful street art, hidden away in a back alley but just stunning! Canberra is terrific for street art I’m finding.

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So to fill in my day, I take a drive out to Lake George to look for birds. This is not exactly easy. Lake George borders the highway for something like 28 kilometres between Collector and Bywong over the border in New South Wales but over the fence the lake itself is divied up into individual private ownership so unless you contact them all and they somehow all agree to you entering their property, you cannot get over the fence to look for birds. This is somewhat inconvenient because its the perfect spot for birds: large shallow lake that comes up and goes down, muddy flats, grassy sections, livestock etc. So you have to bird watch from the side of the road, but since the lake went down after all the spring rain its quite a long way away. I drove up to the furthest point where the lake borders the road and start my start-stop progress back down along the road. I pull in at each stop and check out what I can see. Unfortunately not that much, but there are some birds of prey as expected hovering above the highway so that was fun to photograph. In need of lunch and finally accepting that birding Lake George is really a lost cause, other than raptors, I head to one of the wineries for lunch. The cafe is shut but its a lovely spot. Then off to another winery in hope, but it doesn’t open Monday; I guess I didn’t factor in that a lot of tourist spots would be shut today. So off home for a 3pm lunch and a nap, then when hubby did finish work we went on a bike ride around two loops of the lake. A load of washing, some blogging (if you’ll believe it) and another day wrapped up.

Tuesday 29th November, 2016

Today I checked out the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG, not to be confused with the National Museum or the National Gallery). There’s a new exhibition about Jeannie Baker, a very talented Australian illustrator and story teller. I had one of her children’s picture books as a child and it was beautiful. This exhibition is right up my ally with a book called Circle about the migrating patterns of endangered Bar Tailed Godwits which are beautiful wading birds, and about how human development of wetlands into suburbs etc affects their survival. Her illustrations are to die for! Poor choice of words, oops! They are gorgeous and so detailed and just incredible; I admired that exhibition so much! There was another exhibition that I checked out that was more post-modern, not really my thing but a little bit interesting.

Then I headed over to the Belconnen Arts Centre on the beautiful shores of Lake Gininnderra to check out a Moira Nelson exhibit that looked interesting; a brochure I found somewhere else. This woman has a brilliant style! Her sketches and paintings are marvellous, although maybe if I were the subject I wouldn’t be gushing. She pulls out all of your insecurities and paints them front and centre, which I think is so refreshing, but then my wrinkles are still under the skin not falling down my face! The paintings/drawings aren’t realistic as such, but they absolutely capture the spirit of the person, as far as I can tell anyway. I really truly enjoyed the exhibit, and to top it all off the artist was in residence sketching someone for the exhibit finale, which was fun to watch. I even ate lunch with her, and did my own drawing! After I finished the bird, she told me it was a self portrait; I told her it was a young bird morphing into a male! I hope that has nothing to do with me! In the same gallery there was also an exhibit from the gallery’s disabled program, one from the local high school’s Year 12 class and all in all what a great local gallery. img_1081

Another gallery I’d picked up a brochure for is at Gold Creek: the Old School House gallery. I headed over there but apparently they are closed on Tuesday, but how was I to know when the door was open and the kitchen going? So I was halfway into the place before they told me they were closed. But they kindly let me have a quick look at the cutesie art in the living room and the dining room of the old cottage. Then I tried to find the Gunghalin homestead AGAIN and failed AGAIN, but I somehow found the Gungaderra Homestead instead, not that you can go into it, but it turns out the same is true of the Gunghalin Homestead so nothing lost. Hubby called to say he’d be late, so off I head to the  Jerrabomberra wetlands. A beautiful place with LOADS of birds and lovely paths, except the last one where I had to beat a path along a bank through a wheat field up to my arm pits on a snakey day!! My shoes may never be grass seed-free! That was not fun, plus it was dusk so I couldn’t properly look for the snakes! But lovely grass and water birds, always a great combination for a long list of birds.

Wednesday 30th November, 2016

A bit of a home day so I got my pharmacy registration renewed and paid for (remind me why), packed my new weekly medicine box, some groceries, got a script dispensed, puts the bins out la di da. Then the main event of the day: a bike ride down to Aspen Island on Lake Burley Griffin to hear the Carillon concert at midday. This is a clock and a musical instrument that sounds like bells and sitting in the shade on the island listening to classical music isn’t a bad way to spend the early afternoon. I finally got to that bike shop Onya Bike and got me some cycling gloves in a lovely colour that matches my gear. And then, finally finally, I got to the National War Memorial in time for the Last Post ceremony, and I’m so glad! Wow, its an impressive event! Singing the National Anthem as an adult, listening to the lament on the bagpipes and the Last Post on the bugle, hearing about the life of a service person and seeing their family lay a wreath, then reading what they’ve written; it’s spine chilling really, in a good way.

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The Carillon on Aspen Island, connected by a bridge to the walking track around Lake Burley Griffin

Thursday 1st December, 2016

My brand new computer is playing up in the speakers, the processing, the mouse pad!! Seriously, its 2 weeks old. So back to JB hifi. Plus the case for my mobile phone was defective and when I dropped my phone both the case broke and the screen cracked!! Back to Optus; is this a recurring theme? But they won’t compensate for cracked screens, even though they admit that the case they gave me isn’t protective! ARGH! So on to something more fun. Buy a pair of shoes! Well that feels better. Then out to Fyshwick fresh food market which is really lovely, if I had a shopping list I’d be in real danger! But its just nice to look at all the fresh fruit and veg, the delis and everything. And then THE event of the day, week, month, maybe year: a performing arts piece called NERVOUS being held up at the Yale Colombia Dome at the top of Mount Stromlo near the Observatory. It was billed as a light, sound, dance, acting and science experiment event and it was all of these. A brilliant exploration of social anxiety, internal struggles to be “normal”, interpersonal anxiety through body movement, dance that mimicked the intensity and strain of close human interaction, music that thudded in your chest and made you feel like your heart was skipping a beat, flashing lights and strobes and a brilliant floor overlay of the stock market representing societal anxiety about world events, emergency sirens and news presenters…so much jammed into a short performance by 4 talented creative artists! As someone who suffers with generalised anxiety, I could relate to all of it, and that’s a precious thing! Almost too much…that thudding heart stopping music kinda got under my skin and made my throat tighten and got me feeling anxious!! And the social anxiety section was so very true that I felt like I was understood, which is also a wonderful thing. I felt very close to the artists by the end of the show, and I would definitely go to any other performance put on by the Australian Dance Party!

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The utter awkwardness of intimate physical contact, the fear of not being accepted, the longing to be part of a relationship, the difficulty of making the first move, eye contact as a whole means of communication (this whole segment was silent verbally)

Canberra Day 72

[Tuesday 22nd November, 2016] Another hot, dry day

Another not so great day physical health wise, but I tried. I got out there and did some stuff, and it ended up not such a bad day despite bad cramps and nausea; the digestive system is so cranky at times! So I ate some things that I should never eat…how does it know?? It’s so sensitive! Okay fine, so time to get back to to eating things that don’t make my insides explode. First of all, back to the botanic gardens for the daily 1 hour guided walking tour that I missed yesterday and it turns out I was the only one there so a personal tour of the gardens! How’s that? The volunteer was a really sweet lady and we had a fun time checking out all the areas I missed yesterday. Like all the rest of the gardens. And it was fascinating! A gum tree lawn, a rock garden, the red centre, the banksia garden and more that I’ve forgotten by now. And all with commentary which makes it so interesting. Around any water, and laying around all over the place outside of the rainforest actually, were water dragons which was a lot of fun. They are pretty much statues but I haven’t seen them before so its all new. It was a hot morning so I could appreciate the red centre! And so I spent a lovely hour wandering around the gardens with the guide learning such fascinating bits and bobs. Then I checked out the shop on the way out…not the best idea. A photo book of Canberra by Steve Parish, a bush flower guide, some bird magnets by talented artist Jeremy Boots…I think that was all.

I’ve been meaning to do the CSIRO discovery centre and keep putting it off for some reason…so I decided finally to just bite the bullet and go regardless of how I’m feeling, even if I’m not having the best day, just to go, see how it is, just make the best of whatever there is and have done with it so its not weighing on me anymore. It’s just gotten to that point! Luckily I got there just as a huge group of school kids left! So I had the whole place literally to myself, not even anyone at the desk. So I worked through the exhibits that were interesting, skipped the ones that weren’t that interesting and before I knew it I’d done the CSIRO centre, and it was interesting, and the whole stress was done. YAY! Then a well deserved nap. Then sorting out my new laptop, yet another attempt to get our mail delivered to the correct address and getting some assistance from fellow Facebook birders to ID some of the birds I’ve been photographing.

Finally hubby has been working super big days to try to get his part of the project done since they aren’t extending the deadline. So far it was 7pm and he wasn’t coming home so may as well make the most of the lovely evening and head to one of the bush walks I haven’t done yet: Black Mountain “Orchid Track”. I got there at 7.30pm and kept going till I couldn’t see, and my battery was threatening to go flat! Unfortunately I’ve missed the orchids. If I’d done it when we first got to Canberra I should have had better luck but I left it too late. Anyway, there were lots of other bush flowers and loads of birds so I was happy, what a nice way to end the day, wandering around the bush until the cicadas and crickets went to sleep.

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The powerline reserve next to Black Mountain – the lines are so compelling to draw your eye into the photo

Canberra Day 71

[Monday 21st November, 2016] A hot dry day, warm morning

It may seem surprising but so far I still haven’t visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG). I think that’s because I’ve had the Melbourne gardens in my head and have been thinking of all of the walking that’s involved there, so the thought of doing all that walking here has made me hesitant to jump in. The same reason why it took me so long to get to the zoo! But of course that’s silly on a couple of levels.

1) I’ve never done the whole Melbourne gardens in one session. I’ve done one section one day then come again another day and done another section and so on. I’ve done a free guided walking tour that did an inner circle of the gardens,  and a bird watching walk that did one half of the gardens, but never have I attempted to do it all at once. So why would I try here? I have time, I can come back as many times as it takes if I want to do it all. And after all, I might not WANT to do it all. And that’s okay. I don’t have to do everything. I might just want to taste to compare to Melbourne, and that’s enough. Apart from myself there’s no one saying that I SHOULD do it all; it’s an optional thing to do. But I’ve got myself strung out on the SHOULDs and MUSTs until I’m a bit more barmy than usual. I CAN’T go home without doing EVERYthing, MUST get everything finished!! It’s ridiculous but it’s hard to change. So I’m driving myself like a task master. Trying to wind that back but our deadline has been confirmed and now that we’re on a schedule, it’s hard to relax.

2) I’ve been doing so much walking while we’ve been here in Canberra, much more than I’d been doing in Melbourne, and a lot of it on hills. My stamina has definitely improved! My cardio fitness has improved. I puff a little less, I get up hills a little quicker and in general I’m fitter than I was at any point when I was at the Melbourne gardens. So why wouldn’t I be able to get around ANBG? That’s a question I don’t think to ask often; why wouldn’t I be able? I mean apart from dripping with sweat as soon as I got out of the car, and the blisters in old comfy shoes from feet swelling, and the irritable bowel syndrome which is giving me cramps to cripple a boxer today and leaving me feeble with not much resistance to going back home and back to bed. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I??

Located at the foot of Black Mountain, recognisable from anywhere in Canberra for the Telstra tower sticking up well into the sky from the top of the mountain, the gardens are set on the lower slopes. I believe its actually called Mount Annan but Black Mountain is all I’ve heard. It’s a fully native garden, which was staggering to me; I didn’t realise that so many of the plants I’ve seen around were natives! I didn’t realise that they ran a tour, but I’d missed it anyway. So I started out bravely because I wanted to be able to say I’d done something for the day slightly more than I wanted to go back home! In fact I had already been back home. Twice. It really is a miracle that I made it to the gardens at all! First I forgot my shorts. I was about to turn into the carpark when I remembered, and it’s just not worth it without them, especially in the heat with sweating. So I went back. While I was there I remembered to take a hat which I thought was a good effort; spontaneous remembering! But I forgot my drink bottle so around the block again! Some days I do make my days overly tedious compared to what they could be! I just struggle with my memory. But I finally got there, and was well inside when I remembered that I’d forgotten my drink bottle in the car! No turning back now! Luckily Canberra is very good at putting bubblers in lots of places and I could use the drink stations inside the gardens. I spent two hours wondering around the rainforest exhibit. It’s meant to take 18 minutes so obviously my pace was a little off! Actually I was creeping! Mainly because it was shady in there, also because it was cooler in there and the day was heating up by this stage. And I was stopping for birds all the way along. Plus I was just feeling seedy and sore so I crept along and around the fabulous boardwalks, up and down stairs, stopping to survive a cramp or ten, hoping that my bowels would hold it together til I got back to the cafe: they did, they never haven’t, but they’ve given me a few tense crampy moments! Cursing myself for eating apricot delight and jam. I really need to stick to my food plan. That was it for what I could manage; no more for today. Off to bed! It’s easier to ride out cramps and bad days while you’re sleeping! Two hours later and I woke up much better.

And since it was still only 4.30pm I headed down to Canberra Centre. I’ve been meaning to get a camera bag, should have gotten one when I bought the camera. We thought it might fit in the old bag but no. Hubby has been worried about how I’m carting my camera around so I thought I better get one. I’m trying hard to look after my camera carefully but my inate clumsiness, which has gotten worse on meds, means my possessions just don’t last in pristine condition very long! So off to JB wifi. I’ve never shopped there until I bought my laptop recently but the service there was really good so now its my store. I hate shopping around! I hate specs and details and particulars! I didn’t always. I used to love all this stuff, comparing what had what, making lists of comparisons, reading the brochures for specs, finding out all about everything so I could choose what absolutely best for me. But now? Attention span gone!! Okay well maybe its not so bad, just feels like it some days. Anyway, I took my camera and accessories and tested out a bunch of bags until I found one that suited me. One of the criteria is that it has to fit my “other stuff” in the bag once I have my camera out wherever I am. You know, drink bottle, sunscreen, mobile phone, car keys, sweat rag, etc. I tried out a bunch and bought one, and so far its pretty awesome.

And then hubby came home, we had tea, and it was a beautiful evening so we finally got around to doing the drive around all of the embassies in the lovely warm evening air with the windows down soaking up the sunset and the incredible buildings of some of the 92 embassies, high commissions, treasuries that makes their home in Canberra. This is totally worth doing! Some countries go all out in their native style and design incredible buildings. Some, ie. America, are works of art for the sheer amount of security staff, cars, technology, fences, barbed wire, and I could go on! Some are modest, some take up a whole block. Fascinating to see each and every one of them. And since the evening still wasn’t over? We headed up Mount Ainslie to the lookout to check out the rest of the sunset and the gorgeous dusk light over Canberra city as the lights came on. Also highly recommended!

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One of the many beautiful views from Mount Ainslie at dusk

Canberra Day 69

[Saturday November 19th] A hot dry day with cool to warm morning for riding

I’ve had two early mornings in a row after late nights, like 5am wide awake after midnight bedtimes, so it’s time to be alert but not alarmed as needing less sleep can be the first sign of a “high” or manic episode coming on. It’s nice to have a little more energy though, get a bit more done, drag my feet less, enjoy life that bit more; hopefully it’s just a PMS thing, cos that can happen, or just an oddity. So at 8am, after going back to sleep for a bit, I decided hubby’s suggestion of a morning bike ride was actually a good one. Usually I’m not with it enough to get up until hubby is nearly or actually back home from his ride, so I don’t really get to thinking about what to do while he’s out. But seize the day! Let’s change that up. So off I go exploring, finding my way down to Lake Burley Griffin via some lovely back streets, then around the middle and wetlands loop and a bit of the hilly loop to get there. You never know what you might find in the backstreets; check out the awesome bird street art. I have to say I felt a bit disorientated riding around the lake! It was 8.30am, but what with the second sleep earlier and people’s activities I felt like it was at least lunchtime. I mean who picnics on the edge of the lake at 8.30am in the morning? Who races dragon boats and attends a full boating carnival at 8.30am in the morning? What’s with people, do they hate sleeping in on the weekend? I can understand the people bird watching maybe, because I dropped off at the Jerrabomberra wetlands for a quick peek at the bird hide where a group of elderly were yapping at the top of their voices!! Hello, its a bird hide! Silence is required at all times otherwise what bird in its right mind is going to come close so that we get great views? I asked them to be quiet, one lady paid attention. I asked again and one oldie told me I could come back later! I told him it wasn’t for my convenience, it was the rule of bird hides; they left not long after. It stuck in my craw though!! I also stopped off at the site where they built trenches for soldiers to train in; that was pretty fascinating. Anyway, it was just incredible to see the masses of walkers, joggers, dogs, cyclists all out and about so early. Then home to hang out with hubby. We were planning on going out together but I was fading after all that exercise and emotion, so off for a nap and hubby put his feet up on the couch to chill out for a while.

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If I could design my own wall, I don’t think I could have chosen better!

Our plan was to go to Sparrow hill in Kowen Park which is out off the Bungendore Road past Queanbeyan. It’s a dead end road that I think is a leftover from when they built the current road, and its beautiful with gorgeous green English trees mixed in with the eucalypts and otherwise sandy, rocky, dry bush. They’ve built 40 kilometres of mountain bike paths with linking trails and man alive, are they well used on the weekend compared to when I dropped by the other week! There was a single other car there that day and today I can easily count 20 without hesitating! As the afternoon wore on more and more cars with picnics and bikes and rugs and crates of stuff arrived…turns out there was a juniors 3 hour mountain bike enduro race so all the families were piling in for a nice night in the bush from 4 to 7pm. Meanwhile I wasn’t enjoying the 30 degree heat (yep I know its not that hot but I was dripping!) so I wasn’t budging far at all, and sticking to the shade (which gum trees aren’t really great for), and basically doing as little as possible while trying to watch for birds as much as possible. I didn’t get a great long list, but I was well entertained by a family of Rufous Whistlers that were chasing each other all around me, and challenging me to grab whatever photos I could as they fleetingly touched down then flitted off again to harass each other. Half at least of the satisfaction of bird photography is grabbing a decent photo despite the best efforts of the birds being flighty, the situation (directly over head into the blazing sun!), the weather (overcast, raining), and whatever else comes up (low battery, full memory card, dust on the lens, la di la di la)! Getting home and seeing that the photo turned out as well as I hoped is always a huge thrill! Anyway, an hour mountain bike (MTN) bike ride for hubby, an hour bird watching for me; everyone’s happy! Then a nice fresh dinner of Vietnamese, some groceries and home to chillax as the evening breeze comes drifting in the bedroom door and lounge room floor and makes for a gorgeous evening inside, as much as outside. Delish!

And to top it all off, I problem solved the reason my photo software wasn’t uploading almost by myself, not much hubby input. This is impressive because ever since I started dating hubby and he was studying software, I’ve pretty much left anything technology to him. I have learnt a few things too, but more or less anything out of my immediate knowledge goes to hubby. And he gives me the phrase made famous by the IT crowd: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”. I’m trying to put my brain to learning a bit more, before the medications kill my memory retention altogether. Let’s see how I go. In typical style, I got my afternoon/evening burst of energy and got stuck into getting my blog up to date and managed to get 2 blogs written. I know I should be writing much less, but my memory being what it is, I’m trying to keep the details in so I can remember it later. I haven’t really been able to convey the sense of the day always, the mood, the weather, but hopefully remembering the things will bring back the feeling of the day. We’ll see.