Musicians on Lockdown: Cara Hammond

It’s been a while since the last ‘Musicians on Lockdown’ post, but I feel like this one was worth the wait. Local singer/songwriter, Cara Hammond, chats about lockdown and a #24HourSongWritingChallenge inspired EP.

Musicians on Lockdown: Cara Hammond Title Page

You’re normally based down in London, but you made the decision to come home to North Wales when Lockdown kicked off? Is it strange leaving the city and coming home?

– Yeah it was strange but more because I was leaving London & my whole life there so quickly to come back home. Like all of us, I didn’t know how long that was going to be for & that was scary. I’m glad I made that decision now because it’s been so so nice being surrounded by nature and being close to my family. It’s definitely de-stressed me in an otherwise stressful situation.

You’ve even been taking inspiration from your fans when writing songs?

 – Yeah, since the beginning of lockdown it’s been hard to connect with fans as all of my live gigs and festivals have either been cancelled or postponed. Also for the first few weeks I felt quite anxious about the whole situation & so inspiration for writing could be difficult. However, there’s loads of different features on social media that I hadn’t tried before & realised that now was the time to do it. So I created a post on my Instagram story and using the questions feature, asked people to send me their song ideas. I’d then pick my favourite idea, write a song with it, rehearse it & then less that 24 hours later, perform it in my weekly livestream. Each week I received really great messages either from people who’s ideas I’d picked or other fans who connected with the songs. That’s when the idea for the ‘twenty four hours’ EP came about.

twent

You’ve been making the most of the live features on social media with Open Mic sessions? How did they go?

 – Yeah, one thing I really miss is playing a gig with a great lineup of other artists & being able to engage with other musician’s fans. After I spoke on a Malaysian radio show’s Insta (Fly FM) using the split screen feature, I had an idea for an open mic using my Instagram page as the platform. I asked a few of my musician friends, either that I’d met at uni or since moving to London at gigs or in sessions etc. Everyone I asked were really excited for it! It was great for our audiences as it was the closest thing they’d get to a gig for a while and it was so good to just talk to other musicians about their experience of lockdown.

How did you end up in London? You didn’t take the big jump to London straight away, but went to University in Leeds? 

– I moved to London in 2018 after studying at Leeds College of Music and doing a bit of travelling. I did look at going Brit School for 6th form but as it’s not a residential, there was no where for me to live, especially at the age of 16. I also looked at uni in London, but I remember looking around Leeds on their open day and it was a really great college, with a mixture of all genres of music. I also fell in love with the city, it’s music scene and student-y vibe was really exciting for me. I’m glad I moved to London when I did as it seems that most of my friends have moved their at the same time & I’m absolutely loving it.

Cara Hammond Photo Sun Set

Your move back home for lockdown certainly shows through your latest EP. Stripped back to your voice and your guitar. What was it like writing about a topic chosen by somebody else?

– It was a really great bit of inspiration actually. It really helped me focus, especially since I gave myself a limit of 24 hours, it meant I really had to get my arse into gear. As a songwriter, you’re always writing and/or collaborating. I love writing on my own as it is very personal and I can indulge a little bit. However I love collaborating too, as it’s so fun jamming with another artist and creating a song which you both feel connected to. Luckily I still have been able to collaborate with other musicians/producers at the moment via Zoom.

Cara Hammond Photo

Cara Hammond Photo

Music has taken you round the world too? Did you think you’d get to where you are when you started out, because you started quite young?

– Since I was a kid I always loved listening to, singing and performing music. I think I knew it would always be a bit part of my life. I’m happy that I have kept on pursuing it as there’s been so many amazing things that have happened and I’m excited to see what’s next!

I’d love to finish on some rather impressive Spotify stats? Which has lead to a new music video?

– So ‘Good Times’ is my most streamed song on Spotify, with over 300,000 streams, which is absolutely crazy. To celebrate this and it’s 1 year anniversary, I created an alt music video with help from my band and fans. My band (Robert Oates on drums, Kieran Williams on keys, Stefan Knap on bass, Dominic Carmelo on guitar) recorded themselves playing ‘Good Times’ to which I layered it all on top of each other to create the full track. I then asked friends, family and fans on social media to send me some videos of them having their ‘good times’ which I edited into the video. It was such a fun video to create as it felt like I was celebrating with all these people even though we were all apart.

 Quick Fire Questions

  1. If you could have any pet you liked, what would it be? – Been spending lockdown at my boyfriends house and he has a pet dog named Billie. She’s (as in Billie Eilish) the cutest, fluffiest thing and she really cheers you up when you’re having a meh day. I’ve moved in with my parents now so maybe I’ll dognap her.
  2. Your go-to drink after performing a gig? – Ooooooh a large glass of white wine.
  3. What you miss most due to Lockdown? – I miss live music sooo much. I had festivals planned for this summer so I’m gutted about those being postponed but at least they’ll be there 2021. Also pubs and holidays.

Follow these links to give ‘twenty four hours’ a listen:

Spotify

Youtube

Cara Hammond

Musicians on Lockdown: The Howl & The Hum

Musicians On Lockdown title image

With cycling adventures put on hold I’ve lost things to write about, but with music playing throughout the house more as I try and fill my days, I’ve created the Musicians on Lockdown series. A series of interviews asking musicians how they’re finding lockdown.

We’re kicking off with British band, The Howl and the Hum. Led by singer/songwriter, Sam Griffiths, the band is made up of Bassist Bradley Blackwell, Drummer Jack Williams and Guitarist Conor Hirons. With their debut album aptly named, Human Contact, released today I’m going to find out how they got to this point.

The Howl & The Hum Human Contact album cover

The Howl & The Hum’s debut album released 29/05/2020

The early days of The Howl and the Hum started at the York Open Mic scene, where Sam would go on to meet his band mates. How did you all meet?

Conor and Jack were in a legendary York band, Littlemores – Conor was the frontman, but I hope he doesn’t feel he’s been demoted since then. We met at York’s open mic nights, Conor and I would compliment each others songs (casual flirting) and Brad’s bass playing skills (less casual flirting) while Jack toured Australia (not a euphemism). When Jack came back we put a bag on his head and forced him to play drums for us – that was in about 2017, when we were tiny little dumb babies. Now we’re massive strong men. 

Despite only now releasing their debut album, they’ve already done a headline tour, but not as you’d expect. Instead of heading straight to London or a UK Tour, they toured the Scottish Highlands in a van they called ‘The Beast’. What was touring the Scottish Highlands like? 

The Highlands is one of our favourite places to play – for some reason we get a good crowd on the Orkney Isles. We’d love to include the highlands in every tour. We were lucky enough to explore most of the towns we were playing in, even if it was just a pub dinner or early breakfast in a remote BnB but they were some of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever been on. On this drive, we were overtaken by a boy racer who was the inspiration for our song The Only Boy Racer Left on the Island. We tried to make the song as picturesque as its setting. 

Van life is basically farts and wee stops, but we wouldn’t trade it in for anything. Except The Beast, who has now died. 

Travelling is something that’s limited right now, but where has the band taken you all so far? Is every country you perform in a different experience?

We played at SXSW in Austin in 2019 which was incredible, we’d love to go back to America, preferably in a van, and play for as long as possible. Australia would be amazing, and our drummer is so obsessed with his year down under that his Google Maps voice is always Australian. 

Any show can be deadly, so we don’t have a particular favourite, but I think one of our favourite ever performances was at Lowlands festival in the Netherlands last summer. It definitely feels like a different experience wherever we go, but not in a disconcerting way – we’re very grateful that everyone speaks English far better than we can.

Come 2018 they were performing at festivals such as Latitude and The Great Escape. What was it like progressing from intimate open mic nights to performing at festivals? 

I guess you’ve got to treat every gig the same, whether it’s playing The Habit on a Wednesday night to one man, or in front of thousands at a festival, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. I definitely freaked out when we played at Citadel Festival in London and we were all about 20 feet away from each other – we’re used to being able to tell what we had for breakfast. 

We’d love to play Glastonbury. One day…

Recorded in 2019, their debut album, Human Contact, could become the album that encapsulates Covid-19 into an album. The idea that millennials are lonely only further highlighted by the current situation. That we’d rather contact each other over the Internet rather than face-to-face. What’s the key message behind this album? Do you feel fans might see your songs differently than you initially expected with the current situation?

The key theme is definitely about loneliness in a digital age, and I think that’s escalated since lockdown began, but there are also outlets to reduce loneliness – we now rely on Zoom and Whatsapp to reach out, and burst the bubble that can build around us. I hope people are able to relate to this album in whatever way they can. 

With many albums and tours getting delayed, The Howl and the Hum are also releasing the tickets for their 2021 UK Tour.

We can’t wait for gigs to come back, I just think they’re gonna be nuts. Explosions, live sacrifices, fire-breathers, acrobatics, all of it. It’s difficult to choose, but I guess the Brudenell Social Club is the reason I moved to Leeds, and the Crescent in York was our first headline so those venues would feel like hometown shows. 

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People use music in different ways. Some might use it as motivation in a workout, or others may simply just sit and listen to it. I often warm-up for a cycling race with my headphones in. Do you ever think how people might listen to your music and what for?

I’m always surprised by what people do while listening to our music, because I write it from such a meditative, personal place, but I’m glad people can get their kicks from it. We’d love, eventually, for people to boogie at our shows, but people seem a little apprehensive. As soon as lockdown ends, I think people are gonna wanna shake their money makers a little more.

Quick Fire Questions

  1. If you could have any pet you liked, what would it be?

GOLDEN RETRIEVER

  1. Your go-to drink after performing a gig?

GUINNESS

  1. What you miss most due to Lockdown?

GOLDEN RETRIEVERS AND GUINNESS

Make sure to head to their website to order their new albums, or book your first gig tickets for 2021.

Improving Climbing Ability in Road Cycling

A cyclist and title 'Improving Climbing Ability in Road Cycling'

It’s something that is quite a common hurdle for newbie cyclists to get over in mountain biking and road cycling. When all I wanted to do was race down the mountain bike trails when I was younger, the hills in between them would certainly stop me in my tracks. So I thought I would highlight a few things that have helped me improve climbing up hills. Dare I say it, but I actually enjoy it now.

Pacing

When ego’s are flying round on group rides you’ll tend to find the group stays together at fairly high speeds, but when it comes to hills the group falls apart. One thing that took me quite a long time to learn is pacing. That going steady and at your pace is the best thing you can do. Your body is ticking along at a steady pace all whilst making progress up the hill in question. You might have people speed past you and if they’re experienced cyclists you’ll probably not see them again on your ride. However, if they happen to be naive when it comes to climbing hills, you’ll probably find you’ll see them again some point up the hill hanging over their handle bars gasping for air.

The truth is if you go up a hill without stopping at your own pace, over time you’ll gradually get faster. Possibly without you even realising it. You’ve got to see the bigger picture, are you going to be much use if you burst out all of your energy on one climb on a ride, but then struggle to get home because you’re so tired? Hills take time and patience to get quicker at, so don’t stress about not being quick up them from the off-set.

Who You Ride With

That all lines me up fairly nicely for my next point, which is to look at who you’re riding with. Are they a lot stronger than you meaning you’re already tired by the time you get to those pesky hills? Having people to ride with at your own level means you can tackle those climbs together and spur each other on. It removes that stress of ‘oh they’re waiting ages for me to get to the top’.

A Positive Attitude

It sounds obvious, but it’s one thing you’re taught to pass on to any riders when you become a Breeze leader for British Cycling. Women are notorious for saying ‘sorry’ when they don’t feel good enough (sorry for any guys reading this). Don’t apologise for being what you feel is slow. You’re all out there keeping fit and getting your vitamin D, so what’s the stress?

You can fill your mind with ‘oh I don’t think I can do this’, or ‘just keep pedalling’. If you use the latter you’ll naturally see the difference it makes. I always find it’s often my mind that gives up before my body does.

Be Realistic

Having a positive mindset leads me onto the point of being realistic. Having a positive mind set alone going up a 35% climb probably isn’t really going to help. You have to be realistic with the climbs you want to tackle. Just take it steady and start off on hills with a steady gradient and gradually build it up to those steeper climbs.

When I was training for London Marathon (different sport I know) I kept my training really simple and broke it down to month by month. For example, I want to be able to run this distance by the end of the month. I did various races in the run up, such as a half-marathon, which acted as milestones in my journey to London. From a cycling perspective you can do something similar. Pick an event you’d like to do, for example a particularly hilly sportive and use that as your milestone. Pick an event you have enough time to train for and set a goal for each month in the run up to it. Some goal examples might be:

  • I want to ride X amount of hills in one ride
  • I want to ride a hill of X gradient by the end of July
  • I want to beat my time up X hill by the end of August

Setting goals that are easy to assess improvements against are the easiest goals to follow.

Bike Set Up

This goes for a lot of things in cycling really and something so many get wrong. You go to get your new bike and spend all your savings on it, but then can’t afford to get a decent bike fit. Bike shops might be able to get you the right size, but it’s important to find a bike shop or company which will help set it up correctly for you. A good bike fit can make sure you’re using all the correct muscles, be comfortable on the bike and in turn get up those hills!

After speaking to a Lead Bike Fitter at Boardman Performance, Bianca Broadbent, her slant on the subject of bike fits was to also add conditioning work/training in the cycling position into the equation. “Making sure the body (and machine) are strong is crucial to power up those climbs when you need to work at those lower cadences.” 

Under the umbrella of bike set-up also comes the concept of gearing. To put it simply:

  • More teeth at the back, less teeth on the front makes your gear ratio easier.
  • Less teeth on the back, more teeth on the front makes your gear ratio harder.

Generally bikes come with a compact chain set, which means you already have a lower climbing gear. However, some older bikes might not be set up this way. Your local bike shop should be able to help if you’re thinking about changing what gear ratio your bike has.

Fuelling

Prior to London Marathon I was notoriously bad for nutrition whilst out on my bike. I’d forget to drink or eat, then wonder why my body was resenting turning the pedals. It’s a fairly simple thing and one we all know, that for our bodies to work we need fuel. It’s not until you start to be mindful of nutrition when doing sport that you’ll start to see the difference. During London I was taking sips of water regularly, as well as other nutrition like Clif Shot Blocks and Clif Bars, but one of the biggest things was making sure I drink.

Since going back to cycling post-London Marathon it’s eye-opening now I’ve got improved nutrition habits. It also comes down to when you take that nutrition in as well. Eating half or all of a Clif bar right at the bottom of a climb is completely pointless as it won’t help you get up the hill at all. On a ride back at the start of the year when I knew a long (10 minute +) climb was coming I ate a Clif bar around 10 to 15 minutes before we got to it. That way, the bar was already being processes by my body by the time I got to the climb.

I’m not a nutritionist obvious, but I’m currently reading Training Food by Renee McGregor to improve my nutrition on and off the bike.

I hope these pointers help you on your mission to tackle those climbs that make a habit of popping up when we’re out cycling. We don’t need to worry about tackling them as fast as the pro’s just yet!

 

Cycling To Work: What’s In My Bag?

Picture of a saddle bag and title CYCLING TO WORK: What's in my bag?

Something encouraged by the Government at the moment, I thought I’d share some tips on cycling to work. It’s something I’ve done quite a bit of over the years, right back to when it was my only form of transport for jobs I had as a teenager. With the pandemic, cycling to work hasn’t been something I’ve done enough of. Work’s been a rollercoaster and when I return in a few weeks I actually can’t cycle to work, but that’s another story.

What’s in my bag?

Picture of Garmin, inner tube, bicycle pump, cycling lights, cycling lock and multi tool

Taking the right things on your commute can make all the difference in giving you peace of mind as you enjoy the fresh air on your way to work.

  • Lock

I can cycle to work with some sort of piece of mind when where I work isn’t open to the general public, but that doesn’t stop me having a good quality lock in my bag. To make things easier I loop it so it hangs off the outside of my bag. That way, I don’t have to take everything out of my bag when I get to work to find it.

  • Saddle bag

This is something I have on my bike regardless of if I’m cycling to work, or just in general. I tend to use my saddlebag for all my bike repair ‘bits n bobs’ because then I know exactly where they are. Like with how I attach my lock to the outside of my bag, it makes everything easy to access if something goes wrong with my bike. What I tend to keep in here is my multi-tool, tyre levers and an inner tube.

  • Multi-Tool

These can be useful for a multitude of things, but it depends how much you know about fixing your bike. Simply, you can have it on-hand in case you want to change your seat post height. For the more adventurous, you can adjust the gears if they start clicking away and just generally not working as they should.

  • Spare Inner Tube,

Punctures are sometimes just unavoidable, but it shouldn’t put you off cycling to work. Some people like to repair the inner tube, but for speed I put a new inner tube in instead and put the punctured one back in my bag/pocket.

Now, choosing the right inner tube isn’t always as easy as it seems. So there’s a few questions you might find useful:

Do you have a road bike or a mountain bike? Depending on which, type *bike type* inner tube into the internet.

What wheel size do you have? With something like a mountain bike this is pretty straight forward, eg. 27.5″ or 29″. With a road bike it might seem a little less obvious, but whatever the bike it will say on the side of the tyre what wheel size and inner tube size is required. On my road bike it says 700x25c on the tyre wall, which translates into needing an inner tube of that name.

You can try the Internet for these, but your local bike shop will be able to help you choose the right inner tube too. It’s also worth looking to puncture resistant tyre. No tyre is completely puncture proof, but it’s sometimes worth spending a little more on a high quality tyre to get you to work on time.

  • Tyre Levers & Pump

Some die-hard cyclists will be like “I don’t need tyre levers”, but sometimes they’re just useful. I might do a post on inner tube repairs, but there’s probably lots on YouTube already! Tyre levers and a pump obviously go hand in hand when it comes to getting your tyre back to the correct pressure and you cycling again.

  • Pre-Planned Route

Possibly more something on my handlebars than in any bag, but definitely a must. My route to work is fairly straight forward, but involves country lanes with lots of junctions. So when I’m tired after a shift at work, it’s nice to know I can rely on my Garmin to get me home…ha!

  • Light

A light on the front and back of your bike can help no end when it comes to being seen by other road users. My rule of thumb is to always have a red light on the back of my bike, then when it’s dark outside I’ll pop a light on the front of my bike too. I also tend to avoid buying black or dark coloured cycling kit.

The light shown is from Exposure. I find it perfect for riding to work as it isn’t too bulky, but then packs enough power to clearly light the road in front of me.

A bicycle and a Sprocker puppy

I’m aware not everyone will be lucky enough to have country lanes to get them to work, but Bethan from www.bethanytaylorswaine.com suggests using City Mapper. She says “it can help you find quiet ways you might not have thought of before”.

If you tend to use your phone for route mapping, then fitness blogger Elle Linton suggests investing in a Quadlock. This is a handlebar mount and phone case duo, that help make fixing your phone to your handlebars a lot easier. She says “she spent months trying to hold my phone in my hand whilst riding!”.

Helen from 1vision2girls says to “pack your bag the night before” to eliminate ate the risk of forgetting anything! Helen also leaves an extra 15 minutes on her commute time to allow for any dramas like roadworks or traffic lights on route.

The Fit Londoner leaves a wash bag and work clothes at work if she can, so she’s carrying as little as possible. She suggests to “do a recce of your route on a weekend, especially if you’re not used to cycling on roads or following a GPS”.

Lisa Thake, from Fat Girl Fit, always double-checks her lights are charged for her commute to work as well as the commute home. Most importantly, she says to “be safe and be seen”.

 

Workout Videos I’m Loving Right Now

5 Workout Videos I'm Loving Right Now Title Image

Training from home is obviously the norm now, so I thought I thought I’d put a post together sharing some of my go-to fitness videos off the internet.

Alice Liveing

Having graced the front cover of Women’s Health Magazine three times, Alice is someone I’ve followed on Instagram for a long time. She’s not about calorie-counting and transformation photos, but more about exercising to make you feel your best. That fitness should be measured by that weight increase you’re now lifting, not how long you need to run to turn a cupcake off.

Her feed is full of easy-to-follow workouts you can do at your own pace. How Alice puts up her workouts by uploading each video individually means it’s a lot easier to focus on using the correct form and avoiding injury.

 

View this post on Instagram

UPPER BODY PUSH | Movements can be broken down within strength training into push and pull movements. These are exactly as they as described, push movements involve pushing something away, whilst pull movements involved pulling something towards (think bench press vs pull ups). ⁣ ⁣ These are some of my favourite push movements put together in a simple sequence. ⁣ ⁣ A1. Tall kneeling shoulder press (beginners I’d advise doing this seated) 3×8-10⁣ ⁣ B1. Floor press 3×8-10⁣ ⁣ C1. Push ups 3×4-6⁣ ⁣ D1. Single arm Arnold press 3×8-10⁣ D1. Lat raises 3×12-15 ⁣ ⁣ If you’re after some gym inspiration for the week ahead, then look no further! ⁣ ⁣ 🎥 @themediabros ⁣

A post shared by Alice – Daily Live Workouts (@aliceliveing) on

The Pilates PT

I’d just finished a Pilates beginner’s course before lockdown, so I was gutted when lockdown happened as I was just starting to get going with it! After noticing the Women’s Health Virtual Live event last month, I’ve logged on to Zoom for some Pilates classes with Hollie.

A Pilates instructor from London, she offers a variety of Pilates classes throughout the week. The video below is an example of her ‘Pilates PT Method’, which mixes Pilates exercises with a high-intensity workout. I’ve always known Pilates to be a slow exercise, but I love that classes like this one get your heart rate up.

Classes come at £10 each, which I feel is reasonable when you look into how much training costs to become a fully-qualified Pilates instructor. And a good Pilates teacher at that who will know how the muscles of the body work inside out.

Hollie’s a big advocate for using Pilates pre and post-natal too, which I think is amazing. She’s got lots of classes on her app for new Mum’s and Mum’s-to-be. Being a Mum herself, she also knows what everyone is going through. Drop her a message before you book onto a class if you are pre or post-natal, so you know if it’s safe for you to workout yet.

 

MadFit

A link sent over by a friend, this video was a good addition to the Pamela Reif workout next on the list. Making use of resistance bands, it was great for some at-home glute activation.

I’m not massive fans of resistance bands if I’m honest. I find them rather fiddly when I just want to get on with it. If I’m feeling patient that day I might give them a go…ha.

 

Pamela Reif

One that just popped up on my YouTube feed by chance, it turned out to be a great video to use as a warm-up. It starts out with things like squats, which are great for getting the heart rate up and your muscles warm.

One caveat I’ve found with fitness videos on YouTube is that they’re quite abs intensive from the start. I tried one video earlier in the week and it was something like crunches for the first exercise. For me personally, I feel this puts a lot of strain on the abs and back when they’re not warm yet. It might be just my technique, but that’s my opinion at least.

I find this particular work out from Pamela a great one to use before a strength session. It uses no weights so helps get the muscles warm before you start adding weights to the equation. Something I’ve done this week is use Pamela’s workout followed by Alice’s workout above followed by stretching for a cool down.

 

Boho Beautiful

A channel that has probably appeared on my blog before, but Boho Beautiful is just my go-to when it comes to wanting to do yoga. I don’t do it as often as I should, but I always have a clear head after a Boho Beautiful yoga session.

There’s a few firm favourites I always go back to, but they’re constantly uploading new videos so you can’t get bored. I find this video particularly useful for loosening muscles prone to getting tight as a result of being a cyclist.

I hope everyone is keeping safe with everything going on. I’m definitely starting to go a little stir-crazy, but workouts like these give me something to do each day at least!

Feel free to drop your favourite workouts below. 

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We’ll Never Get This Again

It still feels like it’s all go at the moment, even though everyone’s like ‘enjoy the time-off, we’ll never get this again’. Constant news updates riddled with people arguing about what’s right or wrong. My poor dog subject to people ringing up Radio 2 when I leave to go to the shop purely to moan. And I’m not going to even start on the Twitter and Facebook politicians.

Life’s still happening on Lockdown. Everything hasn’t just stopped. I mean we’ve all got to have learnt a new language by the end of it, no? I’m still learning things about myself everyday. One of the biggest is the fact I’m happiest when I’m ‘on-the-go’. I struggle to just chill. When my mind’s occupied on something, anything, it stops me over-thinking a conversation I had 5 years ago and what I might have said wrong. And, my gosh, I didn’t realise how much going to work helps me sleep! Unless I’ve had a bad day and I just lie there staring at the ceiling wondering what the hell happened. But I’m still here, so it can’t have been that bad.

Despite my blog being quiet, I’ve actually been writing a lot more now I can’t disappear into the Welsh hills on my bike. I’ve come to terms with going out locally purely for my own sanity. I go out early when it’s quiet. I also head to country lanes I know, which allows me to focus on one thing and not how far away I am from everyone around me. I come across people every now and then obviously, but on the whole it’s just that ‘ahh’ feeling of taking a deep breath.

We’ve also caved into getting Netflix when I’ve always been dead against it. I didn’t want to waste my days glued to a TV screen. Basically we’ve completed All 4 and iPlayer, so we’ve had to find something new to watch. We got to 90210 on All 4 about 10 years too late, and we’ve not found anything to be our go-to programme that is easy-watching without being too intense. So now we’ve come to Riverdale like 4 seasons too late…ha. Having got to the end of season one, it blows my mind that someone’s sat down and written it with a plot so complex.

Netflix also meant I could watch Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana documentary, which is probably why I’m typing another blog post. Hearing song’s from her earlier albums took me straight back to being a teenager and realising why I listened to some of them on repeat so much. It’s scary when you look at how much she’s achieved since those albums. With each album and it’s songs ringing true with my life when each one was released. From ‘Mean’ to ‘I Forgot That You Existed’.

I look at myself and things I wish I could change. Being naturally a quiet person, which at times can put me in frustrating situations. I want to put my point across, but my voice just doesn’t raise above the person ranting on. Confrontation isn’t something I’m familiar with, so I guess I’ll get use to that. Then I realise the ‘good girl’ image I battle with and how people think it’s just a free ticket to walk over you because they know there won’t be a backlash. And then I do backlash and there’s just silence…pure silence at the shock of it. The ‘good girl’ image Taylor had to hide away for a year to get rid of. I mean, you get taught everything at school, but dealing with life itself.

Yet, how you see yourself could be completely different to how everyone else does. I got a message the other week from a blog reader saying she wanted to be like me when she grew up because I was a strong woman and amazing at whatever I do. I may or may not have sat there with a little tear in my eye, but with the girl-boss role models I had growing up it felt like I was almost repaying the favour to someone, somewhere, by inspiring someone in the same way.

I’m always going to have strengths and weaknesses. I’m just still learning how to use them. It’s just that whole thing of it’s how you look at a situation. It’s more ‘I can handle this’ rather than thinking of just about every reason in existence on why you can’t.

Elfyn Antics: How A Puppy Took Over Our Lives Part 2

Sprocker Spaniel Puppy

Bringing Him Home

I mean, you’d probably think you’ve done everything you possibly can to make a house puppy-proof. Putting everything out of puppy reach. A baby gate to stop him escaping upstairs because he can’t get back down again yet. Having a little toy box packed with toys to keep him occupied.

I mean there he was, sat on the bottom step of the staircase, no bigger than a potato. His face dominated by the fluffiest of ears. We thought butter wouldn’t melt until we realised what an escape artist he was.

Puppy

A few weeks in of him being joined to us at the hip (quite literally), especially when Mum had her fluffy dressing gown on. There obviously came a time where we had to start leaving him to go out and do adult things like shopping and work.

We tried every trick in the book to try and get him to sleep in his puppy crate, but he was having none of it. This puppy did not want to be locked in there. So we thought it would be a good idea to sort of barricade him into the kitchen part of the kitchen/diner part of the house. If he had any accidents it wouldn’t be a massive deal and he had more space.

But this puppy just wanted to be everywhere he shouldn’t.

We didn’t quite realised his ninja skills until the first time we left him in his make-do puppy pen. There’s nothing worse than sitting in your car watching puppy cam and seeing just how much carnage he’s causing just to get out of his puppy pen.

I felt like the worst puppy Mum ever.

You log onto puppy cam and there he is hanging off his front paws on the fencing stopping him escaping. No success getting over the fencing he decided to push round the side of it. I mean, no big issue, he’s just now got the run of the house downstairs. There’s a baby gate stopping him from going upstair…you think.

Not exactly the text you want off your Mum saying “is he suppose to be upstairs?” when she goes to check on him.

No. He was definitely not meant to be upstairs.

I mean, he may as well have had a party up there. How this little potato sized puppy caused so much mess is beyond me. Clothes were all over the floor. He’d managed to get on top of a chest of drawers. He’d pulled everything out from under the bed. Then when I think he tired himself out completely, he decided to curl up on Ryan’s big bobble hat.

Yet there he is when you walk through the door, tail wagging like crazy, as if he’s been there all day like a little angel.

Film’s might make having a dog seem idyllic, but you’ll definitely have your fair share of dramas along the way! I’ve already had a dog from a puppy once and Elfyn still took us by surprise with all of his antics.

Not as long as the last entry, but I hope it gave you something funny to read. With today being Elfyn’s 1st Birthday, I thought it was time for the next instalment of his antics!

If you’re dog did anything crazy as a puppy, feel free to drop it in the comments below!

Miss the first instalment? Click here!

#24HourBlogWritingChallenge No.1

Blog Challenge

Inspired from my last post linked to Cara’s 24 Hour Song Writing Challenge, I thought I’d start a #24HourBlogWritingChallenge of my own. It’s a weird one right now as I’m in the writing mood, but what do I write about?

I had lots of fab topics sent over on what I could write about. A weekly training/food plan. What new recipes I’ve been using. Women in cycling. However, it was a late entry that I decided to take the plunge and decide to write about.

What would 15 year old Lucy say about where you are now?

I mean 15 year old Lucy wouldn’t have predicted a pandemic. She might have been shocked about where I am now, but at all the other things I’ve got going on.

So I’ve decided to write a letter from 15 year old Lucy after I’ve told her all about what I’m doing at the age of 23…

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Dear 23 year old me,

Thanks for your letter about what you’re up to right now. It makes battling through the dilemmas of high school that little bit easier. I mean, my room’s filled with an Amazon rainforest’s worth of revision notes. I’m staring at them day-in, day-out hoping just some of them stick in my brain. I spend most of my time walking Jenson, but everyone’s freaking out about what dress they’re going to wear for prom. I’ve already got mine. I picked it up in an afternoon shopping in Debenhams with Mum. It was the first dress I picked up. And I obviously wanted nude shoes like Kate wore for the big Royal Wedding. I suppose spending all my weekends photographing weddings, I don’t see prom as that big of a deal. 

It’s more the exams that are filling my brain if I’m honest. Thanks to seeing Leena Gade on the pit wall in Le Mans I’m suddenly paying attention in Maths, but she must have found it difficult to understand at some point right? Last minute as ever I’ve just put my application in for A-Levels. Maths, Physics and Business Studies, which certainly took my Maths teacher by surprise. I mean it took me by surprise a little, but how would I get onto a Mechanical Engineering Degree without them? I get I needn’t put so much pressure on those grades now. They certainly helped you get a good job though right? Working where Grandpa use to work? Just look after your knees climbing through all those aircraft wings.

It feels weird hearing that I won’t end up at University, but oh my gosh your dog is the cutest. Who made it legal to breed dogs with ears so insanely fluffy. And house and boyfriend too? I can’t believe I’ve nearly bumped into him so many times. At the golf club. Nearly joining Wrexham Road Club. Him selling James a bike before we’d even met. I mean that kind of storyline would give most of the storylines on Disney Channel a run for their money, no?

I’m not quite sure how you managed to convince yourself spending so much on a downhill bike would be ok though. Were the driving lessons really that bad? Thank god I pass eventually! Me, racing too. Racing downhill. That sounds like some crazy stuff. Sounds like you made some good friends along the way too. 

I’m not quite sure how I feel about eventually riding and racing road bikes. Sounds as chaotic as the downhill. I guess I was always going to go back to cycling eventually. It’s always the sport I go back to in the end, whether I race or not. I mean, that cycling trip to Belgium sounds incredible. I’ll finally get to see Spa after hearing about it so much off James. 

The London Marathon sounds tough. I know I don’t mind the 1500m around the Daisy Field at school, but 26.2 miles running. My knees hurt already. I can’t wait to hold that gold medal with the red ribbon for the first time though.

At least I needn’t worry about everything as much, despite a topsy turvy turn of events it all works out eventually.

15-year old Lucy x

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It’s funny how when you’re young you think life can only turn out one way. Some things turn out how you want to, like finally getting to see the Spa Six Hours race. Other things turn out very different, like not going to University, but my A-Level grade still helped me get the job I’m in now. So all the hard work didn’t completely go to waste. They might even help me progress in the future.

I imagine there’s a lot of 15/16 year olds out there right now wondering what the hell they’re going to do now they’re not sitting their GCSE’s. Some might be lucky and have good predicted grades. Others may be worrying beyond belief because they were hoping to bump their grades up when it really mattered on exam day. The truth is, I thought exactly the same. Everything in the moment feels like the end of the world. I went from being a good student to just having random jobs for a few years. I worked in cafe’s and bike shops. They weren’t where I thought I’d be at 17/18, but I’m glad I took a year or two to decide what on earth I wanted to do with my life.

Right now, some might say I’ve got my sh*t together. Boyfriend. Dog. House. Family. But the truth is I don’t think you ever really know what you’re going to do with your life. You just take it day by day and see what takes your fancy.

If there’s opportunities, take them.

If it’s what you want to do, but other people aren’t so keen on the idea, just get on with it.

If you can pay the bills and feed yourself, you’re doing alright.

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(Thanks to Ryan for being patient and taking the photos aha)

If you want to give the #24HourBlogWritingChallenge ago, I’d love it if you tagged me in yours so I can give them a read!

Following New Paths

TulipWaking up with a bit more ‘go’ in me this morning, the thought of doing a 2 hour session on my Wattbike seemed like a good idea. I had a bad case of cabin fever yesterday and I just couldn’t get it out of my system. It was definitely an occasion for Lucy to disappear into Wales and sprint up some hills, but I can’t do that right now so we adapt don’t we.

It’s a weird scenario right now where I crave human interaction, but when I go out I’m avoiding people at all costs. It’s definitely made me realise how much I thrive on being able to go outside, which luckily right now is what the daily dog walk is allowing.

And that is where this blog post has come from I guess. Don’t worry the Elfyn Antics will resume shortly…

On my regular scrolling through Insta Stories to see what everyones doing to occupy themselves, Cara Hammond’s Instagram popped up. A female artist from my hometown who’s living it large in London. Cara’s live sessions on Instagram are a good way to spend Wednesday lunchtimes at the moment and this week she was doing a 24 hour song writing challenge and was asking fans to send ideas in. So I sent an idea in:

Following New Paths

I’d started the day getting a bit carried away walking Elfyn. Lucky enough to live near a good loop of country lanes, this was where I was heading. You might have to deal with the smell of cow poo (which Elfyn loves…) but walking past all the fields takes me back to my childhood every time. When I use to watch the lambs run around the pond in the field behind my parent’s house as a kid. Watching them try to figure out they could actually run all the way around it, not just half way. When I used to go and feed the calves in the calving shed at my Nain and Grandad’s farm. The closer I am to a farming environment, the more at ease I am.

So walking along to pause near a gate to a field full of fluffy little lambs, it was enough to put a smile on face. Especially as I watch Elfyn weighing them all up in his little head. He was on the lead obviously as we were still stood on the road. Lambs are just such lively little things the way they prance around the fields then snuggle up next to each other to sleep. They’re coats so pure and clean. They’re always a sign Spring has come for me and I wasn’t sure I was going to see any this year.

I thought I had a route in mind for the daily dog walk. I was doing the longer walk to tire the crazy pup out. However, getting to a certain point where I could carry on using a route I’d done quite a lot recently or turn left to carry on along a bridleway I wasn’t sure which way to turn. It wasn’t a life changing decision obviously, but my indecisiveness took over. The turning left option was a path I’d never bothered to explore before. I thought it was a long drive to a posh house. There was no cattle in it as the field had been ploughed. With the sun shining and the ground solid underfoot I thought today was as good of a day as any to try it out.

I’ll admit there was a slight hint of guilt that took over me as I was passing through. Farmers must be working on overdrive right now doing all they can to get food on our tables. There’s no ‘calling in sick’ for them. If their cattle go into labour, it’s on them to help deliver them. Field’s don’t get tended to without someone driving the tractor. So getting to any gates I made sure I covered my hands with hand sanitiser before and after touching them to open (and close!) them. Luckily there was only one gate to deal with.

Wandering through the fields I wasn’t all that far from home, but it was enough to feel like an escape. To take a deep breathe in for the first time in what felt like forever. A pair of buzzards had caught Elfyn’s eye as I saw his nose following them round as they hovered in the sky. A sky that was blue and cloudless. Random trees in the middle of fields breaking the line of the horizon. So many scents filling up his brain as his tail wagged at a million miles an hour.

Yes it’s fab to say I was in Mallorca not too long ago, but you can’t beat the British countryside can you?

Exploring just a tiny bit of the world I’d not seen before just brought a sense of relief that I’d needed for so long. This was where the idea I sent to Cara came from, following new paths. It’s funny how words to one person can mean something completely different to someone else. I may have just followed a new path with my dog that day, but it matches everything going through my head right now. Where us as a human race are so vulnerable right now, so how we spend our time becomes so much more valuable. Our whole lives have been flipped upside down, so you start to reassess how you’ve been spending your time up to now.

Was what you’ve been working towards actually what you want?

Or are you just scared to do something else because of the leap of faith it requires?

Are you just going to stick to somewhere where you don’t really slot it?

What do you regularly waste your energy on? Worry. Stress. Jealousy.

Do you just want to plod on and live the path laid out in front of you, or deep down is time to switch it up and take the jump?

All those ‘quotes’ that hit you hard suddenly start running round in your head and you’re wondering who the hell you’re suppose to be listening to. Or does the grass just seem greener because cabin fever has set in?

So when Cara’s live session was playing when I started writing this post, I loved hearing her take on the idea I’d sent over. The session is still over on her Facebook page if you fancy a listen.

The whole thing about how people interpret a collection of words got me thinking as well. Would a 24 hour blog writing challenge work? So this might be something I try whilst there isn’t much cycling to write about.

This is probably a bit of a random blog post to put out there, but despite having all the time in the world to write right now, I just haven’t had the lightbulb moment. Until now. Which is why I’ve interrupted the Elfyn Antics post series.

So whilst we try to work our way around all the problems the world is throwing at us right now, just know we’re in this together.

If you need to chat, drop me a message.

If you just need a good rant, that’s cool too.

We’ll get there. Eventually.

If you want to listen to Cara’s Live Session, you can have a listen here

 

Elfyn Antics: How A Puppy Took Over Our Lives Part 1

Sprocker Spaniel Puppy

I’ve been wracking my brain on what to write on here since the Mallorca post. With no races or epic bike rides happening, I was a bit well…stuck. I’ve seen enough Zwift blog posts to make my head hurt. There’s enough ‘how to plan a routine’ posts out there too. And to be quite honest, when we can’t ride our bikes like we used to, do we really want to be reading about it? Probably not.

Therefore, welcome to a new blog post series on Lucy’s Life and Bikes. Elfyn Antics.

For those of you that don’t know, on 10th June 2019 we picked up a very small Sprocker puppy, who like the petrol heads we are, named him after Welsh rally driver, Elfyn Evans. My Mum’s dog is called Jenson, so you hopefully get my drift.

Ever since Ryan and I moved in together, I was adamant we needed a dog. However, with Ryan away most of the time and me working 8-5, it just wasn’t fair on the potential pup we’d give a home to. At the start of 2019 however, things started to change. That was when Ryan stopped cycling. All of a sudden there was a massive gap in our lives. I wasn’t following him to Time Trials anymore and if we were at a Crit race, there would just be my bike in the back of the van. In the space of a morning, Ryan had gone from doing an early morning strength session at the gym to being told he couldn’t exercise again due to a heart condition.

Months went by and I had the London Marathon as a distraction. We both had it as a distraction really as Ryan got me through injury after injury. So, I guess we could ignore the pain of his diagnosis for a few months I guess, but post-marathon I realised something had to change. I’d been surrounded by people going through tough times before, and the common occurrence in all those memories was a four-legged friend wagging its tail every time the family got home. We needed a dog.

Sprocker Spaniel Puppy

Now, it pains me every time the Dog’s Trust advert comes on the TV. For many it works out getting a rescue dog and I love it every time I see one of my friend’s give a rescue dog a home. For us though, I knew we needed the carnage of a puppy. We needed the crazy half hour energy bursts before bed. We needed the little furball snuggling into us on the sofa getting lost in all the cushions. We did look at local rescue centres, but many of the dogs came with complicated needs and were 8 years plus. They were dogs we knew we wouldn’t get accepted for by the rescue centres.

Then it came to decide on a breed. With a small house and garden and steep stairs, there were a few dog breeds that just weren’t possible. Having grown up with a Labrador, we knew one of those would fill up the house just a little too much. I love my Mum’s Labrador to bits, but there’s just no stopping those things when they see a squirrel.

I think everyone expected me and Ryan to get a sausage dog if I’m honest as we were constantly tagging each other in sausage dog videos on Facebook. That’s where the steep stairs in our house came into it. There was no way a sausage dog was getting up the stairs in our house. With me also still being active, a sausage dog wasn’t going to be able to do a 10k run with me was it? We knew we’d still be too active for one, despite Ryan not being able to cycle he can still go on long walks in the mountains within reason.

All dogs are clever creatures in their own ways, but I knew we’d need a dog that was fairly switched on. One that could pick up on what we were going through. I wanted a gun dog breed, and this is where everything happened rather quickly. On the Friday afternoon when Ryan was driving home from work, I decided to blurt out that I wanted a dog. I was trawling the internet, but just didn’t trust any of the sites I ended up on. One phone call to my Uncle later, by some miracle his best friend’s dog just happened to have popped out a littler of Sprocker puppies. For those who don’t know, that’s a cross between a Springer and Cocker spaniel. And there was just one of the little balls of cuteness left. ‘Spesh’ as they liked to call him, but more on that later.

By the Sunday, we were heading into Cheshire to where the puppies were still feeding off their Mum. Barely a few weeks old there were puppies everywhere. There he was, the first puppy we saw out of the litter that just happened to be the only one left, plodding towards us. A puppy covered in white fur and chocolate covered spots, including a heart shaped spot on the top of his head. Naturally you have a cuddle with the other puppies, but ‘Spesh’ had stolen my heart with his extra toes on his back legs. Within 10 minutes I was asking how much he’d be. He was going to be the furball that would turn our lives upside down in the best possible way. He was from a breeder we trusted and was surrounded by cuddles 24/7. It just felt right.

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The following weeks felt like the longest because I just wanted a puppy to be running riot in our house already. I had to refrain myself from emptying the toy shelves in Pets at Home. Although I did allow myself to buy a little Cow cuddly toy, that’s still going strong despite being deaf when Elfyn chewed his ears off. It’s lasted longer than his monkey, who is deaf, has one arm but no hands, and is legless too. Chewy puppy…

We went to see him one more time before we could finally pick him up. Kate sent us so many photos, which helped ease the lack of puppy cuddles in between visits. We sat in the sun watching puppies fight over toys whilst soaking up the sun. I didn’t want to leave that was for sure. We quickly realised we also had the greediest puppy when Elfyn kept chasing his Mum around for food. She was having none of it…ha.

On 10th June, the day after I’d been in London for the DSI Skoda Cycling Academy with Sarah Storey, we were driving once again into Cheshire, but this time we’d be bringing Elfyn home. After a good catch up with my Aunty and hearing about how it went for the other puppies when they got picked up, we were walking out to the van with Elfyn in a blanket that smelt of his Mum. As we drove away the most pain wrenching howl came from this little puppy. He howled and howled. I felt like the worst puppy parent in the world. Had we taken him away from his Mum too early? I was in tear. Ryan was driving and looking at me with no idea what to do. I cuddled and cuddled him, but the howls still came.

I lifted him up to adjust his blanket and the howling stopped. I brought him back down for a cuddle and the howls returned. After all that drama the little monster just wanted to look out of the window…

So quite a few words later, that’s the first instalment of Elfyn Antics. I hope you enjoyed giving it a read and will be back to read the next one. This was more of the background story…next up is bringing him home!

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