It's just the power to charm

Happily ever after is a state of mind, not a circumstance.
For the benefit of anyone who should wonder what happiness is, or wonder why they are not happy but feel they ought to be... those who feel ungrateful perhaps for not being satisfied with their circumstances, circumstances which other people covet. This is why. It is all in your mind and until you get your mind right, a change of circumstances will not save you.
Think of yourself, the things you like and dislike and break that down into component parts. Do you like the things you have cultivated, achieved, experienced? Dislike the things which happened to you or were done to you? The things you did not choose? Parts of your body you cannot change? Memories you cannot forget?
I am staring out of the window of a moving train and wondering at the unfamiliar landscape. Perhaps at this moment whilst I wonder at a tree or stream or road or house, someone is in Leeds wondering at a tree or stream or road or house which is known to me. Known by me. Steeped in my memories like the tannin stains on a teacup or teeth. Drops of rain fall and my mind lingers on the cycle of water. Once those raindrops were my sweat, my tears, the sweat and tears of ancestors. We bathe in them, swim in them, drink them in, flush them out. Everything comes down to molecules, cells and we are all part of each other on some level.  And as I catch my reflection, pale and dreamy eyed, lost in thought my eyes begin to search my features. The eyebrows I do not pluck but remain shaped. The beauty spot above my top lip which was waxed thin and for whose sake I have never waxed the area again. The kink in my nose, a souvenir of my first act of rebellion, my first disobedience, the time I questioned the sign on the water slide which said "feet first". The memory of the rush of water, my nose making contact with the white tile just 4.5 feet below, the cloud of red and searing pain. The ghosts of freckles on my face, the fine lines which I have earned, etched there through smiles - both soon to be covered with a layer of unfamiliar makeup as I pretend to be something I am not.
A bride.
The pressure to look my best, to take this seriously, to do Darren proud, to make the best of myself. To outwardly reflect a serenity I do not feel. A perfection that I do not crave.
A marriage cannot happen without a wedding ceremony and a wedding ceremony means compromise, whether compromises between two people in love, two families joining, the people who bear witness. Everyone has expectations, everyone has an opinion, everyone puts pressure on you and no matter your opinions and beliefs and how clearly you articulate them, they will not allow you to hold them peacefully. Because if you don't conform, don't try they will judge you. Will pity you. And there is no satisfaction to be had in making your own choices because they will taint them and tarnish them and watching clink and clank up the aisle, rusty and conspicuous under the weight of that armour.
No, its not easy and I knew it wouldn't be. Couldn't be and that's why I didn't want it. Falling in love with that one perfect person, no not perfect - but perfect for you - can be so filled with magic. But we don't live in a magical world. Fairytales were created to share, to teach, to be cautionary tales for others. Whether a book or a bible you cannot keep magic all to yourself. It will always be discovered and diluted away from you.
I don't mean to sound so maudlin, but whether you want to or not, there is no such thing as "your" wedding. You will have to justify every choice to someone, and steel yourself for feedback.
In 44 days I will change my initials, my name of 28 years and my status as I become forever bound to the man I have loved for almost 3 years. I will have another anniversary, another "first" in my life. My salutation will no longer be Miss. In Paris they will call me Madame. A lack of flowers or bridesmaids, my unconventional shoes and music choices are not matters of speculation, a wedding is not a spectator sport. It is a gateway, a portal, a rite of passage from one state to another. A fleeting moment and from now until that point I have no interest in being anything other than present. In thinking and speaking freely, not tied up in cliche and tedium. It exhausts me.

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.

Title: Changes by David Bowie

Cycles past the gasworks

As most of you will know, I'm getting married in April this year. After having 8 months to get used to the idea I no longer cringe and/or vomit at the idea and I have almost made my peace with suddenly losing my identity  in place of being "a bride" to every woman I know.

Seriously, I am secure in my anti-bride status but you try 8 months of "how are the wedding plans coming?" and "not long now!" being the first thing that EVERYONE says to you EVERY SINGLE DAY and you try shrugging in response and saying "nothing to organise really" every time they ask and not feel the pressure to summon a screed of enthusiasm from within you and give them what they really want. My theory is that they keep asking because they want and expect you to scream "THE FLOWERS ARE A NIGHTMARE!" because either that's what they were like and they want to bond with you, or they want to roll their eyes and tell their friends that you're a total bridezilla and pretend that they never want to get married.

You see once upon a time that was me, except I wasn't pretending that I wanted to get married. I really didn't. I expected my friends to be excited about their weddings and a bit obsessed or stressed about the planning aspect so I politely asked how the plans were coming when I saw them. But I did talk to them about other things too, and if they were quite obviously not interested in talking about it I didn't keep on at it like a broken record.

Wow... that turned into a bit of a rant... ahem. I actually came here to write about my new bike.
As part of the whole marriage and babies thing, I want to get fit for future pregnancy and I want to have more toned arms, so that I don't look like I have hocks of ham sticking out of my sleeveless dress.

So I joined Virgin Gym at The Light in Leeds, just round the corner from my office and have been trecking there at 6:00 every morning and 5:30 every evening for the last month to swim for 30 minutes each time. Aside from the fact that swimming twice a day is causing me to prematurely age, my hair to suffer from being washed every day (there was a choice between friction burns from a rubber swimming cap which then made my head sweaty and my hair smelly and squashed or my hair splashed by chlorine whilst piled up on my head. I opted for the latter) I've absolutely loved it. It gives me time to think, invigorates me in preparation for a day at work, and then relaxes me after a day at work.

Despite having been a big naked person for most of my life, I still scuttle into a changing cubicle though - I cannot stand next to a skinny naked person and rub moisturiser in to my curves without wondering if they're judging me for not being as skinny as they are. it doesn't matter that I love my body and don't want to be skinny, you can't tell that about a person on sight.

In addition to the swimming, I joined my cycle scheme at work and yesterday picked up my Red or Dead designed pink and black Raleigh bike, matching helmet, a state of the art Kryptonite lock (which took me 30 minutes to fit to the bike and figure out how to secure to the bike stand at the gym... shameful) and 2 bike panniers which I can assure you hold an ENORMOUS amount of groceries as well as my handbag, library books, gym kit... I could pop out twins and put one in each pannier without it being considered child cruelty I bet!

Cycling around Leeds was something I was worried about, I must admit. I don't think we have a great cycle system and my journey across the dual carriageway from Cross Green, along the river, from Calls Landing to The Corn Exchange and then up to The Light this morning was a struggle in the high winds.

I used the pedestrian crossings to get across roads, navigated the cobbles between The Calls and The Corn Exchange quite well and as it was quite early in the morning I didn't encounter much traffic. Coming home at rush hour may be a different story...

Leeds City Council does provide cycle maps for getting to the city, but I couldn't find any guidance for inner-city cycling such as which are not cycle friendly roads, where the cycle paths actually are etc. I took it to Twitter and got some excellent advice so watch this space for my cycling adventures!

I'm looking forward to plotting out somewhere nice to take off with a picnic in my pannier. I haven't had a bike since I was a child and the joy of gliding along hasn't passed along with the natural exuberance of youth.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from my fellow cyclists in Leeds. What are the pros and cons for you (and I don't mean helmet hair. My bike may be pink but I'm not THAT girly!)

I also can't recommend the people of Evans enough. It's a great cycle shop with extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff and an amazing range of products.

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.

Title: Uncle Arthur by David Bowie