I start a CELTA course next Monday. Having initially been cautious about whether the fact that this meant I was no longer looking for full time, permanent work starting ASAP, I'd been coy about letting the jobcentre know until it was all absolutely certain and paid for. It is their job to get you off benefit, not to get you into work - so despite the fact that the course is designed to increase my employability, I was worried they would say I was no longer fulfilling the requirement of being available for work in the run-up to the start of the course. They may have some discretion on this and fortunately, on the day I told them I got the "good cop". I was still available for temporary work so sanity prevailed. Hopefully, by the end of the course, Brighton's language schools will be beating a path to my door wishing to employ me.
I have to admit, I haven't been keeping very conventional hours for the past few months. Our household has always winded down quite late and when my parents go to bed, usually a little after 12, I tend to retreat to my bedroom and enjoy my own private downtime - reading, writing, surfing etc, sometimes not actually sleeping till 2am or later and waking up correspondingly late. With the full time course obligating more regular hours and taking better care of myself, it seemed like a good idea to get into training beforehand.
On Sunday, I went for a bike ride with the cyclist I met on the train the other week. I was a little hesitant to accept his invitation at first. Both my bikes were in bad shape and I was worried they would fail in a way not easily fixable at the side of the road. Of course, there aren't that many things that you can't put right well enough to get you home. I was making excuses. Sometimes you need a kick up the arse to remind you of what you're capable of. Thankfully, I made the right decision.
It wasn't only my bike that was in bad shape, however. I get around on my bike, riding to and from the station at both ends of all my journeys, but I hadn't been on a proper ride for some time. I soon discovered the difference between fit and nearly fit - resistance. It's one thing to be cycling alongside someone at a steady pace on the flat, but it is when you hit a resistance such as a headwind or a light to moderate hill and he carries on regardless leaving you falling behind that you notice the difference. To be fair, I was riding a fundamentally slower bike than his - heavier and with wider tyres - and also carrying my 6kg Kryptonite lock (after having one bike stolen, for the sake of peace of mind it's worth knowing that you've done all that you reasonably can to prevent theft).
We took a pleasant route under the South Downs via the villages of Poynings, Fulking and Edburton, to Shoreham and back to Brighton. We almost stopped at the idyllic Shepherd and Dog pub, nestled in a crook of the downs before deciding after only 7km it was too early for a a pint. Eventually, after around 40km we finished up at The Evening Star, a traditional pub in Brighton where I was introduced to several artisan ales and a couple of Chris's fellow real ale enthusiasts.
Having had my unfitness drawn to my attention, I decided it would be good to get into moderately good shape before starting the course next week, so along with my early nights I decided a little healthy exercise would set me in good stead. Each morning this week, I've been for a short ride (15km, 40 minutes) at around 9am and every day it has been a little easier. It feels good. To top it off, I visited a teacher training open evening at the Falmer campus of the University of Brighton. Falmer is on the outskirts of Brighton to the north east of the centre and, disregarding the bloody great hill in the way, only about two thirds of the distance I'd been cycling in the mornings. Ditchling Beacon is only 1km at an average gradient of about 9%, but it's not inconsiderable when you haven't been getting out much.
Once the thought had entered my mind, there was never really any doubt that I'd choose to cycle over taking the train. Once you reach the top of the hill, it's downhill all the way after all! So with an air temperature of 2 degrees, I set out as yet undecided how I would get home a couple of hours later and a few degrees colder. That said, I did fix a light to my handlebars immediately before leaving home, at a time when there was enough daylight left to get me there safely. So I guess that was never really in any doubt either.
So 40km again, a little tired but generally feeling pretty good. I just have to make sure I've recovered physically before next Monday.
Tomorrow I sign off. I hope the advisor is in a good mood.