Becoming a joyful mover and shaker

running

TW: Exercise, eating disorders – no numbers included.

I recently updated my Instagram bio to tell the world that I am a joyful mover and shaker. My girlfriend told me that 1) I never stop changing my Instagram bio (which is true) and 2) I sound like an OAP (which also might be true). My relationship with movement has been rocky. It started as something that made me feel good but quickly became something that made me smaller. I chased numbers in all senses: miles ran, jeans size worn, calories eaten and it was miserable. I pounded the pavements as I became a seasoned runner and had little regard to how my body felt and this selfishness has caused potentially life long damage to my poor lil feet.

Last year when I completed an Ultra marathon along the Cornish coast I was so proud of myself but I was also so exhausted both mentally and physically even after a long period of recovery afterwards. When I tired to start running again I got a searing pain in the bottom of my heels which continued to visit whenever I rested after exercise. I have chronic plantar faciitiis and now need regular acupuncture, orphiotics and an extremely sexy leg splint. Stress manifests in different ways and my v.qualified podiatrist and I believe 2 key factors are to blame: Years of running on feet that aren’t quite in the right position and years of exercising in a way that pressured me mentally. This has meant that this pain is something that I will have to learn to manage and not something that I can cure. Weirdly, instead of feeling sad that my capacity to run has been wildly reduced I feel relieved and the less I run and the less I feel pressure to run the less things hurt. Go figure.

The diagnosis gave me permission to do what I had been craving for years – tuning in to my body and doing what feels good instead of clinging to my identity as someone who runs long distances. This tied in to the time where I feel good around food and accepting of my body. As long as I was striving to be smaller I was never going to have a neutral and intuitive relationship with food and movement. It was time for me to reclaim movement as something I did because I loved myself and not because I wanted to change myself.

Things that do not work for me: HIIT, circuits, burpees, running long distances, (most) yoga and gyms.

Things that work for me:

Pool swimming
I love the feeling of pushing off at the start of the length when you are under water and I feel like an actual mermaid. I love how my body feels in the water and when I’m done I like how the chlorine smells on my skin. I also like when we go for a late night swim and then stop off at McDonalds on the way home for an apple pie.
– Wild swimming
I love the anticipation of getting into the cold depths. I love the feeling when you start to feel a little warmer in the water. I like feeling seaweed under my feet. I love floating on my back and looking up at the sky. I also like getting warm afterwards and drinking lots of hot tea.
– (Sometimes) plodding/jogging/running
I love jogging to see my friend Maureen who compliments my cookie monster leggings. I love giving myself little challenges like getting to the lampost before the chorus of a song ends. I love listening to Florence and Machine when I run through the old railway tunnels and I try to sing along but usually end up giving myself a stitch. I also like stopping for walking breaks and taking lots of deep breaths.
Cycling
I love my ridiculous gold shiny helmet that some people scoff at and some people cheer. I love being able to process things that happened during my working day whilst I pedal home. I love the feeling where you push hard up a hill and then get to go weeeeeeeeeee all the way down on the other side. I like when I (occasionally) overtake men in lycra. I also like when I finally reach the flat and I have a long shower and a lie down.

I am a joyful mover and shaker and it feels so good.

Conscious consuming and me

stuff

I’ve never really been that bothered about clothes (Sue me Gok Wan). However, in recent years, I have definitely had moments where I’ve had a crisis of style and wanted to reinvent myself with a new look. Whenever something went wrong in my life, I longed for a curated wardrobe. I wanted to be seen as someone ‘put together’ but I spill things down myself at least 17 times a day so no matter how hard I tried, I would only ever achieve a level of style that can be acceptable when you have a toothpaste stain on your tits.

I am tall, really fucking tall and I am broad and I have a soft tummy and for a long time this stuff really bothered me but finally now it doesn’t. I feel like I wear the clothes I want to wear because of how they make me feel and how well they can disguise the tea I’ve dribbled down myself when trying to multitask as I slurp from an industrial sized Sports Direct mug. I have also come to accept that a lot of high street shops don’t work for me because my leg length is akin to that of a giraffe and I am often left with very cold ankles. I have still been a sucker for buying stuff from the places that Facebook advertise to me, that are cheap, have fast delivery and can be worn once even if my ankles are cold and then never see the light of day again. I have also moaned relentlessly when my Mum dragged me around Charity shops because I thought the clothes smelled of old people.

Last month I decided I wanted to make a change. Not only did I want to make sure that the clothes I buy fit me properly, I want to make sure that I know exactly where these clothes are coming from and the ethics behind the company I am buying from. At this point, I have to acknowledge that this is a privileged thing to be able to do, I have a body size that allows me to find things that work at most shops & the finances to be able to fund it. I think the stores that serve larger bodies and sell clothes at an affordable price absolutely have their place and I also believe that these stores can do better without adding ££ to the price tag. That being said, you have to make the choices that serve you best. No judgements.

It is likely that a cheap top is cheap because of one (or a combination) of the following things: the fabric has been sourced unethically, the person who made the item hasn’t been paid properly, the top has been mass produced which means poorer quality or the environment has not been considered in the production. All of these things contribute to the world of fast fashion, making it easy to buy a top for £3 and even easier to chuck it in the bin when you no longer want it. Thankfully, there has been a huge rise in ethical clothing practises and it is now easier than ever to dig into what is happening behind the scenes of your favourite brands.

Here are the steps I have taken to become a more conscious consumer:

  • I sorted through my wardrobe and bagged up donations for the charity shop of clothes that no longer serve my body
  • I looked through the clothes I had and wrote a list of the items that I needed and the items that I want in order to ‘complete’ my wardrobe. It was also important to me that every option of clothing I had made me feel good. If something hasn’t been worn in x amount of months, it’s getting donated
  • I decided I would only buy new clothing if it was something essential
  • I would first look in charity shops for these items (where possible – nobody’s got time for second hand knickers) & buy them and wash them if they smelled of old people
  • If I couldn’t find it in the charity shop, I would look for ethical companies to purchase from
  • If I couldn’t source the item this way then I would use this resource to establish where I could buy this item on the high street with the best rating

^ I am hoping that through following this process I will end up with an ethical and sustainable collection of clothes. Although purchasing these items often come with a higher price tag, the quality is a whole lot better so you are likely to spend less on these items, compared to those from somewhere celebrating fast fashion, in the long run.

Fast fashion stores need to be held accountable for their practises and the ethical and sustainable brands need to be more inclusive. These are the 2 key things that would result in real, positive change. We are the consumers and we hold the power. I encourage you to do your research and choose carefully before parting with your hard earned cash.

I would love to hear your views on fast fashion, inclusivity in the ethical clothing world and recommendations of where I should shop. Feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on Instagram.

Some stores I have been loving lately:
Lucy and Yak
Stalf
Sanchos
Birdsong London
Manners London
Batoko
We are hairy people
Girlfriend
The Emperor’s old clothes
Etsy, Ebay & Depop

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.1)

books

Going to the library has always been a treat. When I was young, it was the first outting I was allowed to do on my own because it didn’t require any road crossing so going to the library made me feel like a strong independent woman at the age of 10. When I was a teen, it was where I could go to play Habbo hotel to my hearts desire which was obviously extremely important to my social development and taught me the importance of good furni and that people on the internet shouldn’t be trusted. The other benefit of the library was of course, the books. I loved reading so much that I genuinely believed that me and Matilda were separated at birth. Although she definitely made better pancakes.

When I lived at home with my family we regularly all sat together and read our books and it’s something that I still look forward to when I go and visit my parents. Reading takes me to another place, it calms my busy brain and it gets me off my phone. Whilst at University that changed, I stopped reading for fun because I was too busy drinking jagerbombs and trying (and failing) to get through the complete works of Shakespeare for my degree. After graduating, my brain felt so full that I couldn’t imagine picking up a book again, so I went on strike.. for 7 years.

Last July a friend said they had a book they thought I’d enjoy and at first I was apprehensive because I was not a reader anymore but then I gave caution to the wind and inhaled it in 24 hours. Once again, I was back in my reading groove. A library card, Goodreads account and 115 books later, I am here to share some of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently, just incase you are in a reading rut too. I hope these books will help to reignite a joy of reading and please share any recommendations you have for me too via Instagram or in the comments. I have also stopped using Goodreads and now use StoryGraph.

Girl, woman, other by Bernadine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. This is a really clever novel which seamlessly links each narrator to the next and is an important book of our time. It is extremely worthy of its many accolades including the Booker prize.

Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Ownes

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Through two timelines that slowly intertwine, the author reminds us that we are shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. This is the best book I have read this year so far.

The Beekeeper of Allepo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper follows the flight of refugees from Syria to Europe and although a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience volunteering at a refugee center. Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, until the unthinkable happens and all that they care for is destroyed by war. The story is moving, powerful and a testament to the power of human spirit.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is about the life of William Shakespeare’s family whilst never actually mentioning that it is William Shakespeare’s family as the other characters are very much at the forefront. This book even made me want to read Hamlet again which I thought was physically impossible after it was my chosen text for A-Level English. O’Farrell is an incredible story teller and I highly recommend anything she writes.

The Salt path by Raynor Winn

Ray and Moth decided to walk the South West coastal path after being made homeless. This is an incredible story of resilience in the face of adversity. Since reading The Salt Path I have walked a large section of the coastal path and loved exploring the places mentioned in this book. I have also listened to this as an audio book which I found really special.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a character whose story is steeped in magic and mystery and Miller finally gives her the spotlight she deserves. In this book, the male centered fantasies of myth are turned into something feminine and real. Never before a fan of Greek mythology, this read completely won me over and has been shared numerous times amongst friends.

The Seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This novel tells the story of the fictional Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo, who at the age of 79 decides to give a final interview to an unknown journalist. The relationship between the two female leads is a testament to Reid’s skill as a writer as they consider what it means to face the truth. The story is heartbreaking and beautiful and I couldn’t put it down.

Daisy Jones & the six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I didn’t want to include two books by the same author but I just couldn’t decide between this one and the previous as they are both fantastic. Daisy Jones & the six follows a band whose music defined an era before they unexpectedly split in 1979 and no-one knows why, until now. Written as a series of interviews this is a compelling read and Reid easily transports you to the 70’s music scene. This book is being turned into a TV series which is currently in production.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to “house arrest” in the Metropol hotel during the Russian revolution. The book spans 30 years as the Count makes the most of his life despite its limitation. I didn’t think this would be my sort of book but I really loved it and genuinely felt sad saying goodbye to the Count when I reached the last page. I now want to go to the Metropol hotel who are making the most of this book’s success by offering book tours and themed afternoon teas. Sign me up!

Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with me weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, grief, and the bonds of motherhood. It is a story about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak. Set in the politic turbulence of 80’s Nigeria this book gripped me from the get go and didn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story which packs punch.

Wild swimming in Bristol

stuff

Itchy feet during lock down has seen the UK desperate to get outside whenever they can. Whilst many have laced up their trainers and pounded the pavements, others have opted to plunge into rivers, seas, lakes and lagoons and enjoy the chill of a wild swim. I am one of those people. I am also someone who has had a pretty tricky relationship with exercise over the years and it has been the best feeling to find something that calms me, connects me to nature and encourages me to be gentle with my body.

“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached ourselves at birth. To swim is to experience how it was before we were born.”Roger Deaken

I thought it would be useful to collate the places I have been swimming in and around Bristol other the last few months. I don’t have any fancy drying kit, or a wetsuit or a swimming cap and that’s the best thing about wild swimming, it’s free, it’s easy to do and it’s really bloody lovely. As a relatively baby wild swimmer I quickly realized how helpful it is to have tips from people who have tread the waters before you and I hope this will encourage you to take the plunge.

Saltford : Mead Ln, Saltford, Bristol BS31 3ER

Saltford is the first place that I swam this year and it is my favourite. It can be reached off the Bristol to Bath cycle path (about 10 miles from the start of the path in Bristol) or by car – although be warned that many parking areas have now been coned off due to it’s popularity so parking can be tricky on a warm day. There are many easy access points into the water from both sides of the river. Being 5ft11 I sometimes struggle to find places that are deep enough for me to properly swim but I can’t touch the bottom at Saltford and there is a large area to do some energetic swimming. That being said, this probably isn’t the best place for children as it gets deep fast. This is definitely a place to bring a picnic as there aren’t many shops close by, however, there are 2 pubs along the main swimming stretch.

Dundas aqueduct: Brassknocker Basin, Monkton Combe BA2 7JD

Swimming at Dundas is pretty magical. We swam here on a really hot day and there were many families lining the ampitheatre style seating down to the water. Getting in and out of the water is easy and there are shallower and deeper parts meaning that it is suitable for all ages. There is limited (paid for) parking so I’d advise going early if visiting in the Summer. Getting to swim underneath an aqueduct is fantastic although watch out for the teens who love diving off the bank just beyond the bridge. Despite being busy you can soon find spaces of quiet if you swim away from the main hubbub and you’ll be greeted by lots of electric blue dragonflies flying the lily pads. Make sure you bring some cash as on hot days there a canal boat selling delicious Cornish ice-cream.



Clevedon marine lake: 170 Old Church Rd, Clevedon BS21 7TU

I’m from Cornwall and every now and again I need to be by the sea. Growing up, we swam in the sea all year round. October was always my favourite because on clambering back to the sand my Mum would have salty chips and hot chocolate to return my Dad and I to a functioning temperature. Sadly, Bristol is lacking in beaches but it almost makes up for it by being in driving distance of Clevedon which boasts it’s own marine lake. The marine lake was first opened in 1929 and has been kept full by the high tides every since. If you are driving there is a car park right next to the lake or on street options. Clevedon is also easily reachable by bus form the centre of Bristol. There are plenty of places to sit around the lake and there is a smaller shallow pool for children aswell as a very large deep pool for more serious swimmers. You will often seen triathletes training in Clevedon but it is suitable for all. It is fantastic on a hot day to perch on the edge of the lake overlooking the sea and the pier (you can almost kid yourself that your abroad!). When you have finished swimming there are lots of nice local walks, pubs and fish and chip shops – which as family tradition stands, is a must after a cold swim.

Important to note: Make sure to check that the marine lake is open before visiting as it is closed during hide tide when the pool is being refilled or if the water quality is poor.

Warleigh weir: Ferry Ln, Claverton, Bath BA2 7BH

We swam at Warleigh weir after a hot day of gardening. I was desperate for a swim and despite being told Warleigh weir would be absolutely packed we still went. The rumours were true, on a hot day Warleigh has people packed in like sardines and we even had to queue to get into the water. Be warned, when the sun is shining Warleigh feels more like a festival booze up than a tranquil place to dip on a hot day. That being said, the water is fantastic. You can sit on the weir and hang your feet into the water or take the plunge and enjoy a large open stretch for swimming. There is a shallower area for children too, lots of rope swings and despite the boozers, there is a family friendly atmosphere.

Bitton

I have swam at Bitton a few times and it is easily accessible via the Bristol to Bath cycle path. Unfortunately there is no parking so a bike is needed for this trip. Just before you come across the railway bridge in Bitton that goes over the river, there is a turn right which takes you down a hill and to the riverside. Access to the water is from a wooden pontoon. When passing recently I noticed a lot of canal boats parked there so it might not be so easy and could cause some annoyance. Getting in is simple, however getting out requires lots of upper body strength. I’m just warning you because I ended up being hauled out by 3 friendly swimmers and it was not chic. The water is deep and there is a large space to swim in. I have heard there are other access points which don’t require annoying boaters or the beached seal routine when you have finished your swim but I am yet to find them. I will update here when I do!

Other places

After publishing this blog I was sent some suggestions of other spots to try and wanted to include them here. Note, I have not swam here myself..yet!
Farleigh Hungerford
Conham river park

I hope this has been helpful and will save me from the many DMs that I receive after uploading photos of wild swims (it does make me feel extremely popular though which is nice). We have so many fantastic swimming spots nearby that can transport you to somewhere which feels very far away from the city. With everything that has been going on in the world, wild swimming has been such a tonic. I hope you find that too. If you try any of the places I have suggested, I would love to hear about it either in the comments or on Instagram.

PS – In reference to some FAQ’s I get asked: Yes it is cold but you soon get used to the temperature. Try and steady your breathing and get moving as soon as possible. Yes there might be fish and other wildlife but they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. No you can’t swim anywhere there is water – do some research before making a trip (all of the places included in this post are totally fine for swimming).

PPS – Take lots of snacks, I am always super hungry after a cold water swim and remember to take your rubbish with you and leave the area as you found it.

Going offline through a global pandemic

stuff

I want to start by saying I have no idea if anyone reads blogs anymore and reverting to an online space to write is extremely contradictory to the content of this post but there we are, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Phones have become everything. They are our camera, our calendar, our calculator, our alarm. I used to see mine as a source of positive connection that I had a good relationship with. I flirted with a year of Instagram fame (I once got sent 100 bags of popcorn which was a real career highlight) that allowed me to help people across the world and I rode on the highs of notification and likes. My phone made me feel good..and then it didn’t.

When the extremely low level Instagram influencer lifestyle got too much I deleted my account and started a new more personal one which boasts 127 followers and a severe lack of free popcorn. The volume of interaction has lessened and it is a genuinely nice space to be in but I still feel a duty bound to catch up on everything everyone has posted. I feel distracted when I am with other people because I’m worried that someone else might be trying to get hold of me. I go to check the time and find myself picking grapes on Animal crossing, replying to an emails, working out how much money I have left in my Monzo account (£37.29) and then I put my phone down and realise I never checked the time and so I check it again and cannot resist the lure of Pocket camp once more even though I just picked the damn grapes and every sane human being obviously knows they take another 2 hours to re-grow.

For the sake of my brain and the sake of my little finger which has a permanent Samsung induced groove I decided to take action. When I was little, my Dad used to turn his Nokia 3210 off and lock it in a drawer before we went on holiday. He is a trailblazer of the modern world because in doing that he showed that he deserved to have a break which apparently is pretty radical. So I did like my Dad in 2002 and turned my phone off for 7 days and instead of jumping on the Brittany ferry for a rocky sail to France, I existed through a global pandemic and this is what I learnt:

  • I do not need every single app on my phone. Following my #detox I removed emails, Animal crossing, Good reads and Facebook and installed them on my tablet which stays at home. I can use these apps when I am sat on my sofa and not when on the go or trying to have a conversation with an actual human being
  • I do not need to reply to people straight away. No-one cared that I didn’t have my phone on which is either extremely rude or extremely reassuring. My therapist told me that when I get a message that I should read, reflect, respond instead of read, respond, reflect which has helped massively in my constant desire to agree to things that I don’t want to do
  • I am a better friend/partner/worker when my phone is off
  • I have more fun when my phone isn’t there. I am more present, curious, invested in those I am with or the space I am in
  • I have a better relationship with food and my body when I am not looking at my phone all the time
  • 90% of Instagram stories are boring unless they are by Jonathan Van Ness
  • I spend less money when I don’t have instant access to my bank accounts
  • I read way more books when I’m not online
  • I don’t need to be updated on every nuance of Covid-19 because when something big changes, I’ll know about it

I am not going to break up with my phone (because my life is infinitely better with Google maps) but we are definitely going to have some space. I am going to implement boundaries when it comes to my time and the access I allow people to have to me. I am going to share on my terms and I’m going to use the time I save on being a scroll zombie by re-watching Glee from the beginning and creating hilarious content from the v.problematic story lines that teen me was oblivious to because I was caught up in the exceptional harmonies of a high school show choir and you are all very welcome.

You deserve to take a break so put down your phone. Unless you are watching my Instagram stories and in that case please tell me I am funny first.