All Change

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We’ve moved to London!

Over the summer, my boyfriend Jonny and I both got new jobs, me in Islington and Jonny in Oxford Circus. I got my job first and as soon as I did, we decided that we wanted to move to London, cat and all. I know a lot of people commute from Chelmsford but for us, the price we were paying to live in our house plus a monthly season ticket (£450!) each just didn’t make sense. Jonny had been wanting to move to the big smoke for ages and it just seemed like the right time.

Seriously.

Seriously.

So we gave notice on our house and started looking for a flat. We decided on Walthamstow, because it’s cheap (ish, it’s still London), close to Essex and it’s not on the Central line. We found a really lovely Warner flat, which are really common in this part of London apparently and are basically purpose-built Victorian flats. The flat is so much brighter than our little cave-house and the kitchen is about 3 times the size of our old one. We’ve even got a (shared) garden! Our commutes are pretty sweet now too, just 20 minutes for Jonny and 25 for me.

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My brilliant family helped us move but it wasn’t the smoothest of starts after they left- we soon discovered that there was no TV arial(!), the boiler leaked and the oven didn’t work. Also, I changed a lightbulb in the living room and for some reason that made every light in the house blow up. We spent our first night eating takeaway kebabs (which were actually excellent), in the dark while watching Gavin and Stacey on DVD because that’s all we could find, quietly weeping. But all these problems were soon easily sorted with an indoor arial, change of fuse and a polite but forceful letter to the lettings agent. Living in London has been great ever since.

We’ve been here almost three months so far and we’ve had a bit of an explore around the area. Walthamstow’s actually quite pretty; it has a beautiful canal that you can cycle all the way to Waltham Abbey on and it’s right near Epping Forest, which is really lovely for a walk. There’s a few things to see here too- God’s Own Junkyard near Walthamstow village is a weird showroom/shop devoted to neon lights that is free to enter and is absolutely amazing to look round on a Sunday. It even has a little courtyard garden and cafe that does sandwiches and nice coffee.

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I’ve eaten some great food since moving too. Last week, Jonny and I went to Street Feast, which has moved to Hawker House in Canada Water for the winter. There were some great stalls; not least Meringue Girls, where they were selling chocolate cupcakes with hot chocolate sauce, ice cream and a little meringue ghost on top. Absolutely amazing for £4. The spicy brisket buns and mini tacos were great too and I’m definitely going back soon to test out everything else.

Also, I’ve finally got into coffee! Well, lattes. I’ve been testing all the coffee places around mine and Jonny’s work and I so far rate Love Die Latte in Soho and Saint Espresso right next to work on Pentonville Road. And yes, I’ll finally agree, it does taste completely different to Starbucks (although I’ll always love a venti caramel latte).

Lastly I can’t write about food in Walthamstow without mentioning Jesse’s Cafe on the High Street whose strong tea and full English really sorted us out after some serious wedding drinking. It’s also mega cheap and always seems to be full of policemen, if that’s your bag.

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If I’ve missed a great part of Walthamstow or you’d like to point me in the direction of a wanky coffee place I’ll definitely love, let me know in the comments!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

Book Reviews and New Year Faliures

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I decided to see where I was with the resolutions I set myself at new year and the results are….. very average. I don’t think I’ve forgotten any birthdays so far, but I think I’ve only sent one non-birthday card since Christmas. Blogging more and making my own lunches have both gone out the window lately due to stressful times at work, but now that’s levelling out I will hopefully have time to do more of both soon. I do think I’m looking pretty glam though, so that’s going well.

I have however managed to read three books since New Year, so I thought I’d have a go at writing some little reviews. I was hoping to read more, but again work stress made it much easier to just go home and stick E4 on. My Andy Samburg crush is getting intense.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

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I just finished this book and I absolutely loved it. It’s actually really hard to say anything about the plot without giving away the story but… In post-war London, Frances and her mother are forced to take in lodgers to help pay the bills in their big Champion Hill house. Well to do and sheltered, they are not ready for the young ‘clerk class’ couple that move in. But they slowly get to know each other (and anyone that’s read Sarah Waters before will know what that means) before something terrible happens that changes all their lives completely.

All the characters are well-written and so interesting. The story is told by Frances, a spinster who doesn’t want to be married but also isn’t ready to accept the life she’s fallen into, looking after her mother in a big, crumbling house while her friends live exciting, independent lives. There’s also the Barbers, the paying guests of the title: cocky, arrogant Leonard Barber who makes Frances so uncomfortable and his wife Lillian, a dreamy, self-styled free spirit unhappy in her marriage. The plot doesn’t sag at all and it both gets going straight away and doesn’t finish until the last page, which I really liked for some reason. I also thought the time it was set in (straight after the first world war, where soldiers had returned and were struggling to find jobs) was really interesting.

I highly recommend this book, it’s classic Sarah Waters and I honestly had no idea how the story would end. If you like historical fiction with a bit of courtroom dramz thrown in, look no further!

I would also like to add that I downloaded this book on WhisperSync so I could listen to it on my walk to work and it’s beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson.

Buy it here

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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I read this on holiday in Amsterdam a couple of months ago and finished it in about 3 days which is quite rare for me. It’s the story of Rachel, a borderline alcoholic and recent divorcee, who becomes a bit obsessed with a couple whose house she can see into on her daily commute. She names them Jess and Jason and when Jess goes missing and its reported on the news, Rachel believes that she has a vital bit of evidence and decides to help the police.

This book was quite a big deal, becoming a huge best seller and even Reece Witherspoon was talking about it on Instagram. It’s easy to see why. The book totally taps into the voyeur part of you that checks out people’s living rooms when it’s dark and looks into how desperate people are to be part of something, even harassing the police and lying just to feel important.

If I have to be negative about the Girl on the Train, I’ll admit it does get a bit silly towards the end and, given the relatively small list of suspects, its not hard to figure out whodunit. I also read that it’s being made into a film but I personally think that this has “ITV 9pm drama” written all over it, to the point that I wondered if it had been written just to be sold to TV. Please don’t think that’s a criticism though, ITV dramas are one of my favourite things, I can think of no higher praise.

Despite its silliness, this book is still a solid 4 out of 5 and perfect for reading on holiday. Just don’t expect to like any of the characters, everyone’s pretty hateful.

Buy it here

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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And now to a book I really didn’t like and I so wanted to. The Miniaturist is the story of Petronella, an 18 year old from a grand but poor family. She leaves home in the Dutch countryside to move to Amsterdam and marry Johannes, a super rich merchant who lives on the canal with his staff of two and his scary, strict sister Marin. Johannes’ gives a wedding gift to Petronella of a perfect miniature version of the house and suggests that she hire a miniaturist to fill the house with furniture. But the miniaturist sends unasked for objects that show they know exactly what’s going on in the unhappy house and what is about to happen.

And that’s it. It just goes nowhere and it’s so BLEAK. The first half of the book is so good; learning about the different members of the household and why Johannes seems so nervous to go near his new wife, but once that’s been explained it becomes just another unhappy part of the story. And the mystery of the miniaturist and why they know (and care) so much about the household is a really good idea, but it’s never resolved, it just fades away as if the author didn’t know how to end it. The second half of the book is just absolute misery, with almost every character coming to some kind of sticky end. The sheer, relentless gloom of the book reminded me of Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, so if you enjoyed that, knock yourself out, but it was too much for me.

There are some good points to The Miniaturist; the descriptions of Amsterdam are really beautiful and as I finished this waiting for my flight to go there, I was excited to see the areas mentioned in the book. And I guess there was a slight feeling of hope at the very end of the book. But overall The Miniaturist was not for me.

Buy it here

I’ve got a few books to read on my Kindle and I think I’m going to with Dark Places by Gillian Flynn next, I loved Gone Girl and found Sharp Objects horrible but very readable so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like. If anyone’s got any recommendations of good books then please send them my way!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

2015 Resolutions

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Happy New Year!

Time to think of the ole’ resolutions.

I know a lot of people think NY resolutions are bollocks, but i kind of like the idea of them; listing all the things you want to change this year just seems to make sense to me. I’ve come up with 5, without having to resort to the usual healthy eating or getting fit ones.

My boyfriend has also asked if i can have one that involves me chucking old clothes to clear up space in the wardrobe, but that ain’t happening…

1. Remember birthdays and generally get better at keeping in touch with people. (Facebook doesn’t count!)

This is the main one because I SUCK at this. I am always the person sees you post the (now mandatory) “Thanks for the birthday love guys, I’ve been very spoilt” Facebook post, waits 20 minutes then writes a happy birthday message so it doesn’t look like I only remembered because YOU mentioned it. Don’t look at me like that, we’re all guilty of this.

I’m generally just quite bad at keeping in touch with people. I tend to refer to everyone I know or used to be close to as my friends, to which my boyfriend always patiently asks “Are they really your friend? When did you last see them?” which I think is a little rude, but I also think he’s got a point. I partly blame social media. I use Facebook and Twitter constantly so I therefore know what’s going on in most of my friends and acquaintances’ lives; I know when they’re seeing someone new, what they cooked for dinner and even (if they’re an over-sharing Susan) when they last went to the doctors. I comment on statuses and say congratulations when big things happen, so I feel like I’m still in the loop and socialising.

But I’m not really socialising. All my (real!) friends and I are very busy now, with boyfriends and babies and weddings and increasingly stressful jobs, so we see each other less and less. We are in our 30s, after all. I talk to people online and email occasionally but I probably physically see my friends maybe once a month, once a fortnight at the most. I’m lucky I’ve got a boyfriend at home, close friends at work and a twin sister and mum that I talk to all the time, or I would truly be a hermit. Remember when you said “When we all move out and get our own places, we can just go round each others houses and see each other all the time. We’ll probably save loads of money, too.”? Did that come true for anyone??

SO, I’m going to try and keep in touch with my friends better! It’s not as simple as announcing “You’re seeing more of me from now on, I’ve signed us up for a bowling league!”- as I mentioned, my friends are busy people, but I’m definitely going to check my calendar for birthdays, make an effort to text, email and send cards more, and just try and see people more. I did a kind of ‘soft launch’ of this by actually writing and sending out Christmas cards and I’ve downloaded a birthdays reminder app, so wish me luck!

2. Make lunches for work and waste less food

Speaks for itself really, but spending up to £5.00 a day on lunch when I have the food to easily make sandwiches or salad at home, honestly makes me feel a bit disgusted with myself. As does the constant ‘forgetting to freeze leftovers, so having to throw away half a pie’ situation. No more!

3. Look more groomed and glamorous

In my natural state, I am scruffy, curly-haired and honestly, a little spotty. I look alright when I put the work in, but I can’t always be bothered to make much of an effort beyond the exact same makeup every day and a quick hair straighten.

I would like to look more glam and grownup though so I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve myself in the following areas:

  • Care for my skin by taking my makeup off at night moisturising properly
  • Use all the colours in my new makeup palettes and not just the nude champagne one every day
  • Moisturise my legs everyday
  • Wear perfume more
  • Look after my hair and grow out my crop (although my boyfriend pointed at Shirley in Eastenders the other day and said “That’s just what your hair’s going to look like soon”, so looking forward to THAT)
  • Finally stop biting my nails

That’s actually quite a long list when you write it down, isn’t it?

4. Blog more

I do really like writing this blog, I just have a hard time actually getting round to it, or thinking of stuff to write about. I want to try and post things once a week, or at least once every 10 days if only because it makes me try and think of new things to cook.

5. Read more

I love reading and I did read quite a lot last year, but I would like to get through more books in 2015. I just find sitting reading a book quite anti-social when I’m not on my own so my boyfriend and I tend to watch TV together instead.

I’ve been reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for MONTHS so I want to start by finishing that and then reading at least one book a month. I would like to put book reviews on here too, but my critique of books tends to be simply ‘hate, like or love’ so I’m not sure they’d be too long, but I might give it a try, which would add to Resolution 4! It’s all coming together!

I’ve kind of started on all the resolutions, except the reading and 5 days in, it’s going well! Has anyone else made any resolutions? Please let me know in the comments if you have.

I also saw this http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/im-so-im-so-proud-of-you#.sue51KK4do on Buzzfeed which is sweet but very ‘Pinteresty’ . It also has the worst name ever (The REMEMBERLUTIONS JAR!!) but I might give it a go.

I hope everyone had a great NYE and here’s to a top 2015!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

UPDATE: On new year’s eve (A super-fun night of Chinese, drinking and board games) my friends and I decided to start going to our local quiz night once a month. We shall see if this actually happens, but I’m hopeful!

ZIGGY UPDATE: Our little cat is now so friendly that he was referred to a ‘needy’ the other day! He follows me everywhere from the moment I wake up, demands to share all our meals and sleeps on the sofa, flat on his back like he’s sunbathing. I’m so pleased we got our water-loving weirdo, he’s a brilliant addition to our home. I’ve also found out that just before we got him, Ziggy got his old housemate pregnant and she’s now had 4 kittens. #PLAYA

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Christmas Chocolate Truffles

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. Well, given how late I’ve left it to write this, it doesn’t just look like Christmas, it actually IS Christmas.

I love Christmas. Winter’s my favourite time of year and Christmas is just the best bit. I like the presents, the decorations, the lights, the time off work (seriously, a sure sign of getting older must be that you look forward to the six days off just as much as the big day), the TV and especially THE FOOD.

Roast turkey, Mum’s bread sauce, mince pies, Wine Gums (if Nan’s staying), amazing leftover sandwiches, Jan’s Boxing Day chilli…. it’s all good. And giving food as gifts is fun, too.

I wanted to make a little foodie gift for all my work friends to go with their cards. Last year I gave everyone tiny decorated sponge cakes and I wanted to do something similar. I decided on chocolate truffles, decorated to look like mini christmas puddings. I made some last year and really liked how they turned out and it also meant that I could use my edible glitter, which is always a plus.

I found a recipe for chocolate truffles on the good old BBC Good Food website, which recommends using all dark chocolate, but I’ve used 125g dark chocolate and 175g milk chocolate, because I find that they can be too bitter.

I will admit, I’ve had to make this twice because I cocked up and forgot to buy butter so used Flora Buttery instead. I don’t know the science, but it seems that the truffles need the fat to set or something because the mixture just stayed really gross and slimy. So use full fat, it’s Christmas!

Christmas Pudding Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 40 truffles

For the truffles:

  • 300g good quality chocolate
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • Bitter cocoa, such as Bourneville or Green & Blacks

For the decorations:

  • 125g white chocolate
  • Holly sprinkles
  • Edible glitter
  • Gold petit-four cases
  1. Chop up your chocolate (I used a demi-lune knife) and pour into a large heat-proof bowl
  2. Gently heat the butter and cream until the butter melts and the cream starts to simmer
  3. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and pour over the chocolate
  4. Stir the chocolate and cream together until you have a smooth mixture
  5. Leave to set for around 3-4 hours

Once the mixture has set, you can start decorating!

  1. To shape the truffles, pour the cocoa into a medium sized bowl
  2. Take a walnut sized spoonful of truffle and roll in your hands to make a ball
  3. Drop the truffle into the cocoa and roll around to cover and then place in a petit-four case
  4. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave (much easier than a bain-marie) and then use a teaspoon to dot a tiny amount on top of the truffle, to make the cream on the pudding
  5. Finish by carefully placing some holly sprinkles on top and then dust over the glitter

I think you’ll agree, they’re pretty effective.

For the packaging, I had grand ideas. I wanted to put four or five into a clear plastic box, very simple and classy. I found the boxes by searching “clear plastic favour boxes” on eBay but it turns out I can’t count or measure though and I bought 35 boxes in totally the wrong size. I ended up just giving everyone one truffle in a little box on the day of our Christmas lunch when we wouldn’t want to eat much anyway. The single truffles actually looked really cute in their Christmassy boxes and made a nice little present to go with the cards.

So that’s that. Tree’s up, cards are written, presents are wrapped and gifts are made. We are ready for Christmas! Ha, not really, so much left to do! I hope everyone has a wonderful time over the holidays and if anyone finds themselves needing 25 favour cases, please let me know.

Merry Christmas!!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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Frimble Frumble

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I’ve been wanting to cook something Christmassy for the last week or so, but I couldn’t decide what to make. I know a gifty thing I want to make for friends, but it’s too early for that. Then it hit me, I’ll try and make Pret’s Crimble Crumble!

I LOVE Crimble Crumble. It’s a mince pie bar that’s shortbread with a layer of mincemeat and a crumble topping. It’s rich and lovely and, it turns out, quite easy to copy.

I’ve decided to call my own version Frimble Frumble, so we all know it’s a fake. I used Jamie recipes for the shortbread and crumble topping, but I used shop-bought mincemeat. It took most of Sunday to make, but its very easy, just a bit of a faff.

Frimble Frumble

Makes about 12-16, depending on how you’re cutting!

Part One, Shortbread (Taken from Cook with Jamie)

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 125g cornflour or semolina
  • Preheat the oven to 150ºC
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Add the flour and semolina and mix lightly with a spoon then your hands to make a dough
  3. Jamie recommends that you then roll it out on a floured surface before placing into prepared tin. I found this really tricky so I ended up putting the ball of dough into the tin and flattening it into place with my hands.
  4. Prick the dough all over with a fork and place in the oven for 50 minutes or until it’s golden
  5. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Part Two, Mincemeat

  • 2 jars of any shop bought mincemeat (I used Co-Op, because we happen to live opposite one)
  1. Spread the mincemeat over the shortbread. That’s it!

Part Three, Crumble (Taken from the apple pie recipe in Jamie’s Dinners)

  • 225g plain flour
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Rub together the flour, butter, sugar, lemon and salt to make a sandy mixture
  3. Add the egg yolk and a dash of water and make a dough
  4. When the dough is smooth, wrap in clingfilm and put in the freezer for a couple of hours
  5. Once the dough is quite firm, take out the freezer and crumble over the mincemeat. I just pulled bits off the dough and scattered over, but I think next time I’d leave it longer in the freezer and then grate a layer over too.
  6. Put in the oven and cook for around 30 minutes. Keep a close eye on it though, as the time it takes to cook depends on the thickness of the crumble.

And its done! I sliced it into smallish squares and rectangles and took it to work for everyone to sample. It went down very well! It’s not *exactly* the same as the Pret version, I think that they use actual crumble rather than a pastry, but its still a nice take on a traditional mince pie. According to the Pret website, Crimble Crumbles are 330 calories per serving and I’d imagine Frimble Frumbles are about the same.

In other news… we got a cat! After 2 solid years of hints and flat out pleading, Jonny finally relented and we adopted a cat from a girl in Manningtree, who is having a baby and couldn’t look after her cats any more.

He’s a tabby boy called Ziggy and he’s very nearly a year old. I would love to put a photo on here to show how handsome he is, but he’s an antisocial sod at the moment and is living behind the sofa, under a radiator. He only seems to come out at night, to test out the acoustics of the house by wailing pitifully in every room. Still, all the (many, many) websites I’ve looked at and friends on Facebook say that this is normal and he’ll relax and make friends with us soon, so I’m not too worried. A little friend for Christmas, yay!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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Blueberry & Lime Drizzle Cake

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When it’s cold and rainy out like it is now, I really just want to stay in and eat cake.

Actually, even when it’s gloriously sunny out, I still just want to stay in and eat cake.

This is one of my favourite cakes, it’s a Lorraine Pascale recipe, ripped out of a Sainsburys magazine years ago. It’s very easy to make and decorate, but looks quite impressive. It’s a bit of a “village fete” cake, looks pretty in a rustic kind of way and because it’s a drizzle cake, it slices really cleanly. That’s important to me! It also lasts longer than other cakes because it’s so moist.

I made this yesterday without checking if I had all the ingredients and obviously I was missing some bits, so I had to make a few adjustments. I used half caster and half soft brown sugar, and the butter was a mixture of Stork, Lurpak and actual butter. It turned out just fine. This cake is so hard to get wrong!

Lime & Blueberry Drizzle Cake

Makes about 12 slices

For the cake:

  • 225g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g blueberries
  • zest of 1 lime

For the drizzle:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 100g icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk, or in an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between.
  4. Fold in all but one tablespoon of the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  5. Toss the blueberries in the remaining flour, then fold these and the lime zest into the cake mixture.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a tin, and put in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.
  7. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes or so.

To make the lime drizzle, mix together the juice of the two limes and of icing sugar. Poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer or thin knife and then pour over the mixture. Leave for a few hours or overnight for the drizzle to sink in.

I iced the cake really simply by mixing together about 125g of icing sugar and 1 and a half limes, so the icing is thick and white but still runny. I then let it run off a spoon to make stripes across the cake and sprinkled over some lime zest to decorate.

According to MyFitnessPal, this cake is about 345 calories per slice. Not too bad! Keep it in a tin and it’ll be good for about 4 days. Enjoy!

Clare xx

@ClareErin

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Adventures in Cycling

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I’ve got a new laptop! My old one became more and more useless until it would only stay on for about 4 minutes, at which time a big sign saying “CORRUPTION!” would flash up and it would close itself down and restart. Which, as I’m sure you can appreciate, was pretty annoying. It was about 6 years old though, so I can’t be too angry.

So goodbye Dell, hello MacBook Air! My new laptop is beautiful, fast and I can do things I’ve meaning to do for ages, like edit my iTunes to be slightly less embarrassing (so long All Saints album and I Love College by Asher Roth). It also means that I can write on this blog again, hurrah! I know everyone’s been missing my ramblings about my pedestrian cooking…. But I’ve also been thinking that I’d like to write about more than just pasta and cake, which leads me to this post, about cycling.

As soon as we found a new place to live which was a bit further out of Chelmsford than our old flat, I got a bike through my offices’ Cycle 2 Work scheme. I borrowed £300, which got me a Pendleton bike, lock, helmet and lights, all from Halfords. The C2W scheme (as all the cool kids call it) is a great idea as you basically rent the bike from your employer, with the money taken out monthly through PAYE. My payment is £25.00 per month, which isn’t too painful at all.

I had two main reasons to start commuting to work by bike. Firstly, I am very tight and I hate paying to park my car. The only alternatives are the bus, which is almost as expensive, or a boring, 40 minute walk, so I decided to start cycling. Secondly, I wanted legs like Taylor Swift.

I’ve now been cycling to and from work at least 4 times a week since April. And although I am in no way an expert (I still can’t lift my left hand off the handlebar to signal and I once fell off trying to go up a curb) I have discovered a few things about novice cycling. I thought I’d celebrate my first blog post on my new laptop by imparting some of my new-found wisdom.

CLARE’S TIPS, HINTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON CYCLING

Do you really need to cycle?

Before you buy a bike and plan your new two-wheeled way of life, I’d stop and consider: How long is your current commute? If it’s less than a 10 minute walk, I wouldn’t bother cycling. By the time you’ve found all your bike bits, got the bike out the shed, cycled to work, locked up your bike and retouched your makeup, you’ll probably be taking about the same amount of time, if not longer. You’ll also have considerably shitter hair. By all means still get a bike, but maybe just use it for after work and weekend adventures.

To helmet or not to helmet

For me, the main reason I wear a helmet is not that it might stop me dying*, it’s that it keeps my hair down while cycling and stops it getting too bashed around by the wind. Yes, I’m that shallow. But I do appreciate that they do play a part in keeping you safe. I like knowing that if I fall off, my head is slightly protected. There are some really cool helmets around (cyclechic.com have some beautiful Bern ones) but in my opinion, you are not going to look cool in any cycling helmet, so you may as well get an ugly £30.00 one, instead of spending £80.00 on a pretty one.

Generally, the accessories suck

One thing I realised a few days into cycling was that I needed a rucksack. And not a cool, cute one from Topshop, a big ugly one that would fit all my work stuff: lunch, snacks, backup disks, kindle and possibly a change of shoes and a jacket. I got one from JD Sports in the end. Since then, I’ve added some black and pink fingerless cycling gloves and a black metal basket to my accessories collection. All this stuff is practical and useful and the bag has padded straps and is super comfy, but I’m not going to be featured in any cycling style guides any time soon.

I’ve found that generally, cycling accessories are pretty hideous. There is lovely stuff online (and on Etsy particularly) but the stuff in the big cycling shops is definitely more at the ‘functional’ end of the style spectrum. My advice is to shop around and be prepared to pay a bit more than you thought if you want pretty accessories to match your lovely bike.

One accessory I’ve bought that I DEFINITELY recommend everyone try is cycling shorts! I bought them to go under dresses and skirts when I’m cycling (my undies just aren’t glamorous enough to flash, unfortunately) but they’re so bloody comfy that I wear them all the time. Highly recommended.

Your desk drawer will start to resemble Superdrug

I might just be horribly unfit, but after a 20 minute bike ride, I am not looking my usual glam self. I decided that instead of spending the day feeling scruffy and untidy, I’d just get into work a bit early and sort myself out.

My desk is now like the toilets of a cheap and nasty West End club, except without the lollipops and I won’t charge if you borrow something. I have spare straighteners, styling product, hairspray, deodorant, concealer, blusher and face wipes and I can re-do my face and hair in about 5 minutes, much to my boss’s amusement.

Prepare to be hated

One thing I’m never sure about is whether to use the bell or not, which is more polite; to ask people to move or to just ring your bell? I thought it was better just to say excuse me be but once I was cycling on the pavement around the Army & Navy (scary!) and a lady said “God! Use your bell!” when I asked her to move. So you can’t win.

While you cycle about, minding your own business, you will get dirty looks from both motorists and pedestrians. The motorists, in my opinion, don’t really have any right to moan. By cycling you’re easing road congestion, freeing up spaces in carparks and helping the environment. As long as you’re cycling safely and not riding no-handed on the wrong side of the road, texting, they can’t really complain.

Pedestrians on the other hand, I think have a point. You’re on their turf, in their way. I just follow the rule that if it’s a narrow pavement and there’s more than one person about and I really can’t go on the road, I get off and walk. Yes, it slows me down and messes up my Map My Ride time, but I think it’s worth it for not being spat on by mums with pushchairs. Which could happen in Meadgate.

So there you have it! All I have learnt from my 6-ish months as a cyclist. As I mentioned before, I am in no way an expert so if you have any comments, or just want to inform me exactly how Cycle 2 Work operates, feel free to let me know.

And regarding my Taylor Swift leg goal, no change so far. But then, Taylor is 5 inches taller and 9 years younger than me, so I’m not sure what I was expecting really.

Clare xx
@ClareErin

* I intend to die the same way that Krusty faked his death: crashing into the side of a mountain, flying a plane with my face on the side, evading tax.