Category Archives: bikes

2020 in review

Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year 2021 workbook asks you to describe the year just gone by in three words. It’s left open to you how you interpret this: you could, I imagine, choose three words that describe the year from a global perspective, from a personal perspective or anywhere in between. There’s one word I’ve heard more often than I care to remember that has been used to describe 2020 that I never want to hear again and I have no intention of using it. It starts with unp . . . .

And that is the last I will say about that word.

I’ve chosen three words to describe the year from my own isolated perspective from the bottom of an island at the bottom of the world. They are:

  • Unexpected
  • Inconsistent
  • Introspective

Unexpected because I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that the world would be thrust into a pandemic that shut everything down, took so many lives, and shook everything up, leaving people jobless and causing so much worldwide despair, uncertainty and confusion. On a personal note, I didn’t expect the issues I was having in my workplace with noise to be (temporarily) resolved by having to work from home. There were other unexpected things too, not all good, and not all for this blog.

Inconsistent because, while I made a lot of progress in some areas I wanted to work on and I achieved a lot, I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped in other areas. I completed my uni course, and I had some good results at work but, there were other areas I was less successful in developing (no judgement here, just stating a fact) and they continue to haunt me. A lot of that is connected to me not being able to stop procrastinating and giving into distractions. And not getting into an exercise routine that works for me.

I struggled to find a third word but I chose Introspective because I started to work on some long standing personal issues in my head that are preventing me from being the person I want to be. It was hard work but rewarding, and I think I am starting to discover small chinks in the façade I’m trying to break down.

I would also add interesting to the mix . . .

I started the year with beautiful sunny Sunday morning photo expeditions, a couple of times with a good friend and other days by myself. It seems like so long ago now . . .

Sunday morning explorations with my camera

A major focus of my year was my uni program, of which I had three units to complete. The first one was intense, involving a lot of self examination and analysis, which left me feeling drained but also with some very clear ideas of what areas of my life I specifically needed to work on. I finished the course in October and received my qualification in December and am very glad that’s over but also grateful for the opportunity to have done it and learned so much.

I managed to keep reasonably healthy in 2020, not least because I have now gone for nine months without drinking alcohol and, as a formerly very regular moderate drinker, I’m particularly proud of my efforts to do this. I read the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, and it totally changed the way I looked at alcohol. I’m not saying I will never drink again but for now I’m very comfortable with my decision not to.

This book changed my life

I had a potential issue with my eyesight that I had to have checked out a couple of times during the year but it all seems to be okay for now and the professionals are monitoring it. I got a hearing test at the start of the year, which revealed I have a low noise tolerance, which makes sense of all the issues I’ve been having at work and in other situations. I’m not sure what we do about this but a retest later in the year showed that my sensitivity had increased and I still don’t really know how to manage it. I kept up with my dental checks and my physio visits to resolve long-standing neck, back and posture issues.

I’m grateful there was never a time during the lockdown that I wasn’t able to go out on my regular morning walks. That would have made it a lot more unbearable.

Morning beach walks, muwinina Country

I started riding my bike to work, which became a whole lot easier when everyone had to stay home because of the pandemic and, as I said at the time, while I didn’t love riding in the traffic, I didn’t necessarily want the roads to be clear because no one was allowed outside. I stopped doing it as much (at all) as the weather got colder, the buses stopped charging fares and, eventually, when I was working from home full-time. It’s something I will start to pick up again when I go back to work after the holidays.

Bike riding to work

Another habit that I actually stuck with was reading, and there were a couple of things that made this possible. First, my goal was to develop the habit, rather than to set a number of books I wanted to read, which the pressure to read a certain amount off and allowed me to just focus on doing it. Second, keeping my no alcohol month going the whole of the year led to me going to bed earlier, which meant I could read in bed before I went to sleep. As of today, I have finished 34 books, which is 13 more than in 2019 when I set myself a target of only 12 books to read and never really stuck with it after I’d finished the 12th book.

The most powerful book I read in 2020, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

I didn’t do as much work on learning Photoshop as I had intended at the start of the year when I signed up for a bunch of courses. Even though my uni work took up a lot of time, I still had a lot of free time that I could have done this work and I’m not sure what was stopping me. It’s not like I have to do the courses all at once or that there’s a time limit. I can do them in my own time, and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve worked well to deadlines where there is a clear assignment to complete but with these courses there are no assignments, just instruction and it’s up to you to play around with what you’re shown and see what you come up with. This is one of the areas I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve very much in, and I want to do more in 2021.

I completed the major photography project I wanted to do this year, which was to spend 50 days making a photo a day with my 50mm lens. I’m really pleased with that project and it’s made me appreciate and understand that lens a lot better. I certainly won’t be keeping that one stashed in the bag again!

50mm photo of the Aurora Australis, the day before she left Hobart for the finial time

I had a couple of exciting moments in my photography in 2020 too. In January, one of my photos was published in Australian Photography magazine.

My first photo published in a national publication

I was equally chuffed when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asked if the court could use one of my photos of the court in their Christmas cards this year.

Supreme Court 2019

And just before Christmas, I found out that one of the photos I had taken of the Hobart Magistrates Court at the Open House Hobart weekend had been chosen as a winner of their photo competition, which was a lovely way to end the year. I’ve really enjoyed my photography this year.

Hobart Magistrates Court 2020

I was lucky to be able to get away for a couple of short breaks during the year. We had a trip to Bridport in the July school holidays. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and couldn’t remember it at all, so it was great to be able to explore a part of Tasmania I wasn’t familiar with.

Old pier at Bridport on pyemmairrener Country

In October we had a night at Port Arthur, a place I am always somewhat reluctant to visit because of the many sad layers of history held by the area. And then, as a reward for finishing my uni course, I took myself off to Launceston for a photography retreat and I had a wonderful time photographing some of my favourite buildings and walking all day.

Tessellated Pavement near Eaglehawk Neck on paredareme Country

Kramstable adapted really well to online school and I was impressed with his commitment to his work, his ability to self-direct and to manage his workload. The schools did a huge amount of work to ensure that kids could continue learning during the lockdown and I have nothing but admiration for them for what they achieved. Thank you seems like such a lame things to say to convey how grateful I am for what they did. It has been wonderful watching Kramstable learn and grow this year, and for it to start to become more obvious what his strengths are and where his passions lie. The high point of his film work was his nomination as a finalist in one of the categories of this year’s My State Film Festival. It’s also exciting to watch his work and interests develop outside of school. Seeing his dedication sometimes makes me wonder how my life might have been different if I’d had such a passion as a teenager and had been supported to pursue it in the same way I hope I’m supporting him.

Sadly, Bethany the Australorp chicken and Rex the rabbit died earlier in the year. Two new chickens joined the flock in November, Dorothy and Shirley, who are black copper Marans and are very cute. After a month in a cage in the chook yard, they are now finding their feet with the big girls, some of whom are none too pleased to have them there.

The new chickens

Aside from the working from home, covid didn’t have a massive impact on my life. I don’t like going out much, I detest shopping, I don’t play or attend sport and I don’t enjoy being around large gatherings of people. I spend a lot of time at home anyway, and I love it. So I pretty much did what I always did, it’s just that I didn’t have a choice any more. Regular Friday night dinners at the bowls club were replaced with trying out various takeaway and home delivery options from local restaurants and pubs. I actually reversed my no caffeine strategy and started getting takeaway coffees from my local cafe (I am sorry for the plastic, but they weren’t allowed to use keep cups). I’m not sure why. One day I felt like a coffee and it was a valid reason to get out of the house and one day tuned into a couple of times a week, turned into every day. And when they were allowed to reopen, it because my go-to place to write. And a place to work when I needed a change of scenery.

Monthly review at the coffee shop

I realise that I am incredibly lucky that this was my experience when so many others suffered greatly and many continue to do so. I am so grateful for having the job I have and that the Tasmanian Government did what it needed to do to keep our state safe. I haven’t stopped being grateful for being in the position that I’m in this year.

It was, indeed, an unexpected year.

A weed is just a plant growing in a place someone doesn’t want it to grow in

Unravel Your Year asks you to consider what the gifts of 2020 were. I know for many, this would be difficult. I offer the following.

2020 brought me the gift of afternoon walks. Instead of being at work all afternoon, packing up and catching the bus home, I packed up my home office and went for a walk every day. I watched the afternoon light dance on trees, rocks, water and the opposite shore, and I made photos of what I saw. I would never have been able to do this if I hadn’t been working at home.

2020 brought me intense self reflection and the deep inner work that I need to do to start to heal myself.

2020 brought me a confidence boost that tells me maybe I do have an artistic side.

2020 brought me a brain that is no longer befuddled by alcohol, and the clarity and health benefits that go along with this.

2020 brought me respite from a work environment that was becoming increasingly stressful and difficult for me to cope with. My stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have been for a long time as a result.

A friend recently posted that we all need a little more yellow in our lives. I agree. You can never have too much yellow!

Goodbye, 2020.

You were not the year I expected you to be. I know the challenges you have presented, both on a global level and to me personally, are not going to disappear when the clock ticks over to 2021. In reality, the date on the calendar is just an arbitrary thing anyway. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, covid is still going to be here and I’m going to have the same struggles I have today. The climate emergency hasn’t gone away and there’s a lot of work to do. However, the end of the year is a good time to have a bit of a reset, to re-examine my priorities and goals, and make sure the course I’m on is still the one I need to be on.

Thank you, 2020, for the gifts and the opportunities you have offered me. I ticked 18 things off my 20 for 2020 list. I haven’t made the most of everything, but I think I’ve made some progress and I have learned a lot. I intend to continue to learn in 2021.

One thing I know, 2020, is that I won’t forget you in a hurry.

Bicycle days

On Monday morning I left home at 6.45 to ride to work, which is number 10 on my 20 for 2020 list.

Some background. When I moved to Canberra and started my first job (last century), encouraged by one of my bike-rider colleagues, I bought a bike and started to ride to work. Canberra has this wonderful network of off-road bike paths, at least it did in the suburbs I lived in in the north of the city. So riding to work was a relatively safe activity. But because of the ramblingness of them and the tree roots that were a trap for young players riding home in the dark, I used to get frustrated and ended up riding into the city down the main road, Northbourne Avenue. Lots of riders did it and it was a lot faster.

I’m not sure how long this lasted, but I guess I must have tired of it pretty quickly. Then I ended up with a job close to my house so I walked and after moving jobs again was a car passenger for many years.

The bike, meanwhile, because very neglected and I rarely used it. (Rarely is code for never.) It just took up space in the shed and space in the shipping container when we moved back to Tasmania. And space in the shed at the new house.

One year I put it on a list of 100 things I wanted to do that year. It was 2016 (I was very ambitious back then. 100 things in a year! What was I thinking?) and one day I did pull it out of the shed, clean it, pump up the tyres, lubricate the chain and I rode it. Once.

20160326 Clean bike

March 2016

From memory, this had been on the 100 things list for many years, and during that time I met a new friend who is a very keen cyclist and who kept telling me to get the bike out and ride it. When we moved closer to the city, he kept telling me I should ride to work.

Haha, no. Was my reply every time. It’s a ten km ride. On a main road where drivers are often, let’s say it politely, complete dickheads. Buses are frequent. All the cyclists who ride on these roads seem to be Bike People and they look like Bike People and they ride really fast. Yes, there’s a marked bike lane but it’s a very busy road. It is way scary and I am never doing that.

Fast forward to November 2019. I’m in a cafe and I see a poster for an e-bike expo in a couple of weeks. What’s an e-bike? I wonder. It might be fun to go up to the Regatta Grounds and hoon around on an e-bike for a bit. So, with no clue about what was going to happen, I went to the expo.

It was all a bit intimidating. There were Bike People there. I didn’t know who to talk to. The first stand I went to I asked the guy to tell me all about e-bikes because I didn’t know anything and hadn’t ridden a bike for years, and he said he didn’t know either, he was there from the Government’s climate change policy unit and I could take one of their publications if I wanted.

Not awkward at all.

I wandered round for a bit feeling very lost and confused. I’m not very good in crowds, even small ones, and I’m not very good at putting my hand up and asking for help. So I wandered up and down the bike shop stalls trying to overhear conversation fragments between salespeople and potential customers so I might find out how to actually try one of these machines out. I was finally able to find someone who was available to talk and told him my story. I know nothing, I haven’t ridden a bike for years, I live ten km from town and want to be able to ride into town and home again. At the time, I hadn’t thought about riding to work. I was thinking more about being able to get into town early in the morning to take photos more quickly than if I had to walk.

He showed me a bike he thought would suit me. It’s small, it has a battery capacity for up to about 50 km, and it’s . . . grey. Can I try it? Of course. A few formalities were needed. I had to exchange my massive sun hat for a fabulously fashionable bike helmet, hand over my driver licence, and sign a waiver in case I died. He showed me how it all worked (remarkably easily; these bikes are pedal assist, so you set a speed you want to ride at and then the motor will kick in if you drop below that speed—but you have to be pedalling for it to work. And its top assist speed is 25km per hour). He adjusted the bike to fit me and then I was allowed to go riding round the Regatta Grounds.

Whoooo! It was so much fun! All of a sudden, riding a bike wasn’t work. Sure, I had to pedal, and any time I got over 15 km/h I started to feel a little terrified but I couldn’t stop smiling. Can I ride over the memorial bridge as easily as I could ride on a flat street? Yes, yes I can. I exchanged smiles with other people experiencing the same thing. This. Was. So. Cool.

I imagined the possibilities for my weekend walks if I wanted to go and take photos somewhere around town. I don’t drive and on Sundays the buses don’t start until 8am, so I walk. It takes about two hours so it’s a very early start if I want to catch the morning light. At 15 km/h on a bike it would take less than one, or I could go further. The more I thought about the idea, the more excited I was. Finally, I could have some transport of my own.

I did a bit of research when I got home and the more I read about this bike, the more I liked the sound of it. I went into the shop the next week and chatted some more to the guy I’d talked to on the weekend (Ahmet, who, it turns out, knows my cycling friend because this is Hobart). I decided I was going to do it, that I was going to become a bike person (not a Bike Person) and ordered one.

It took about two weeks to come in and in that time I rode my old bike to the beach, a trip that takes about an hour on foot but only 25 minutes on a bike, even without pedal assist. I loved it. The trip back, uphill (up-incline?), was not quite as enjoyable, but I’m not used to riding so, of course, anything other than flat or downhill was going to be challenging.

20191208 Bike ride 1 edit

My first trial ride and a bonus sunburst

I probably annoyed everyone for the next two weeks talking about when the bike was going to come. When it finally came, I arranged to go in on the Saturday afternoon so I could ride it home. There really wasn’t any other way, and I figured Saturday would be preferable to a weeknight because there’d be less traffic. I was so excited to pick it up as well as being terrified that I would have to get it home on my own. Ahmet was very thorough in explaining how everything worked and all the things I needed to know, he showed me how to adjust everything and pointed out a very handy feature of power assist walking where you can turn the motor on while you’re walking to keep the bike moving faster. These are heavy bikes, around 27 kg, so pushing them up a hill is not easy.

Fully briefed and relieved of a lot of money, I left the shop with my new bike. Walking through the streets. There was no way I was going to ride it until I got to somewhere more isolated. Because it was a couple of weeks before Christmas, the streets were packed. I don’t think I’d ever be game to ride in town, even in the quieter periods. My workmate, who I learned had recently started riding to work along the same road I would need to ride on, had told me she got her bike confidence by taking a few trips on the inter-city cycleway before she went on the road. This wasn’t really an option for me unless I walked the bike down there so my test ride to the beach on the old bike was all I had. I was going on the road today, no matter what.

I felt so awkward and visible walking through town, even though I’m sure no one looked twice. I’d worked out a route than involved a bit of footpath riding (never again, too narrow and pedestrian-rich), riding some back streets of Battery Point, walking down Napoleon Street (because there is no way in hell I am ever riding down there), and then riding along Marieville Esplanade to where the bike path is still on the footpath on Sandy Bay Road, and then (gasp!) the actual road. I made it home unscathed, bike undamaged.

20191214 My new bike 2

I made it home!

Since then, I’ve ridden to the city a couple of times on Sunday mornings and it’s been great.

I’d been thinking about riding to work but thought that I wouldn’t want to do that until I was more confident in riding and knew the bike better. I wrote it down as a thing for 2020 to make sure I did it. Then it occurred to me that January is actually the perfect time to get that confidence because there are fewer cars on the road before school goes back and it’s light all day. If I’d left it until later I’d have to immerse myself in a more hectic road space and it would be more scary. No time like the present and this window won’t be around for long. I have no excuses. I picked Monday as the day and I did it. No special riding clothes, no shower at the end. I didn’t need them. It was no more energetic than walking 40 minutes to work (or however long it took).

It’s a good ride. I’m happy sitting at around 20 km/h, which I can do under my own steam most of the way. But the pedal assist is awesome for getting up hills. Well, not exactly hills, more like upwards gradients in the road. And going down the other side at speeds of nearly 35 km/h is way fun and I feel a lot more in control doing it, compared to a month ago when I would have sat on the brakes the whole time.

20200106 My bike at work

Bike at work. I rode it.

So ride to work is now crossed off the list and I think I will aim to do it at least once a week, at least in the lighter months. I’ll see how I feel when it starts to get darker. I might buy some more lights before then too.