Coffee Cycle Saturdays
Adventures in Coffee: Episode 6
For this final episode of Season One, we're brewing up something a little different.
Jools shares her personal story growing up to Caribbean parents, living life with depression, her love of cycling, and how it all came together with Coffee Cycle Saturdays.
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Read Jool's book, Back In The Frame:
Scott Bentley: Welcome to adventures in coffee, a podcast by caffeine magazine, sponsored by. iFinca and Oatly
Jools Walker: Now in this first series of Adventures in coffee, Scott and I have explored the world of coffee for those of you out there. And people like us who are curious about what goes into their daily cup.
Yeah. We made this podcast to try and demystify this weird old world of coffee and we've had some laughs and we've had some more emotional conversations along the way. And this episode, is a little different from what we've brewed up before. Think of it more like, uh, our producer, James, his podcast called Filter Stories is going to be more in that kind of thing.
Jools Walker: Now dear listener, we are experimenting a little bit with this one and we're actually really curious to know what you're going to think of it. Now, some folks out there who know me as Lady Velo might be wondering on earth, is she doing on a podcast that isn't about cycling, but all about coffee? Well, In this episode, I'm actually going to be sharing my personal story with you.
And this includes growing up to Caribbean parents in the UK, living with depression and how this actually flows with my bike life and how all of this comes together with coffee cycles. Saturdays do tell our dear listener jewels. What is coffee cycle Saturdays
Scott Bentley: Do tell our dear listener, Jools, What is coffee cycle Saturdays?
Jools Walker: Well, it's almost exactly what it says on the bag.
Scott Bentley: Jools, next to those tasting notes.
Jools Walker: Yes. Yes, exactly. But coffee cycles Saturday, it's about coffee and cycling and mental health. And, you know, we've all been going through stuff in lockdown and especially in light of lockdown, this episode, may hit home for a few folks out there, but I'm not going to spoil the whole thing for our dear listener
Scott Bentley: Well, I think this is an incredible story and I don't want to break it up with some sponsored messages. So should we get those out of the way first?
Jools Walker: Why not? Let's just let's roll with it.
Scott Bentley: Jools?
Jools Walker: Yes, Scott?
Scott Bentley: Can you answer me a question about iFinca?
Jools Walker: Yeah go on
Scott Bentley: Do they roast coffee?
Jools Walker: No.
Scott Bentley: Do they sell coffee?
Jools Walker: No.
Scott Bentley: Do the import coffee?
Jools Walker: No.
Scott Bentley: Do they ship coffee?
Jools Walker: No.
Scott Bentley: Are they a certification scheme?
Jools Walker: No.
Scott Bentley: What the bloody hell do they do?
Jools Walker: Uh, iFinca, uh, Scott, they only trace and track the coffee through the entire supply chain and tell you how much everyone, but including the farmer got paid along the way.
Scott Bentley: Oh, okay. So if you want truly transparent coffee, you better get your roaster to be, iFinca a verified.
Jools Walker: Exactly.
Scott Bentley: Jools you had a great idea when we did one of these previous episodes about having a milk free Monday. That's obviously swapping that out for Oatly. What else would you, what, what else would you have free? Would you have fun free Fridays?
Jools Walker: I just hear Craig David. Now it's just like, you know, Had a meat free day on Monday had a bit of tofu on Tuesday.
Scott Bentley: Seriously though.
Jools Walker: So we do want to cut down your carbon footprint, having a milk free Monday. Wouldn't be a bad idea. It will make a difference. It's just these small incremental changes that you can do, Just in you know, in the comfort of your own kitchen can end up helping the environment out in such a big way.
Scott Bentley: There you go. Listener, go and get some Oatly. Have a milk free Monday.
Great, that's done Jools. Take it from here.
Jools Walker: I'm Jools Walker. I was born in East London in the eighties and I was born to two West Indian parents. Uh, they came over from the West Indies during the Windrush generation to help contribute to the economy and building of the country, like the backbone of the UK. And they both settled in East London.
Interestingly enough my dad had one job, when he came over to the UK, he worked at the Ford car plant in Dagenham from the age of 19 until he was 55. My mom's morning routine, it was very set. So she would get up at six or six 30. She would have her, if you can call it breakfast, her breakfast would be a cigarette and a cup of instant coffee, two sugars and black. That's it. My mum had various jobs. She actually worked in like a processed meat factory.
When I was growing up in Canning Town the most fun that I would have would always be being out with friends that I grew up with on the housing estate that was home. That still is home to this day. And for us, it would be being out on our bikes. So Canning Town isn't exactly the most green rich space in London.
And because there was so much redevelopment going on, you know, when we were on our bikes anywhere and everywhere was a playground and we would, we'd also go to places like home building sites, which I don't recommend for health and safety reasons.
Don’t worry, we were always looking out for each other and help was quite literally around the corner.
Canning Town had reputation as being a pretty rough area. There were certain pubs that you, you knew you wouldn't step foot in because the national front a racist organization were here. You'd get racist, graffiti on the walls as well. Anything ranging from the N word or if you were going to be called a “wog” as in like a “golliwog”, monkey, “go back to where you come from, you know, go back to Africa.”
I guess I was lucky in the sense that when I was a child, I didn't face anything extreme in that sense.
So, you know, there, there was a time when a head teacher, uh, primary school knew that there was something was wrong because my mood had changed. I wasn't as lively as I used to be, I was kind of withdrawing when I was, uh, at class. So she called for my parents to come in to talk to them about the change in my behavior.
Yeah, that was, um, it was the first. First step, I guess in understanding that something wasn't, wasn't quite right with the little Julie.
I remember feeling really awkward. I thought I was going to get in trouble. I had done something wrong. I had let some kind of side down by changing like that. Do, if you've ever come across people calling their depression, the black dog or a black sheep, that's just hanging around. I describe my depression as being like sparks that are trapped inside of my head.
The way that I think of it is you've got all of these bolts of like electricity or blinding lights just going off. And it's almost like there were too many signals going off at the same time inside of my mind, my motivation for everything drops, absolutely everything. And that could be from. Not feeling like I want to get out of bed.
I'm thinking to herself it's just better to stay under the Duvet. There's nothing on the other side of this that I want to get involved with.
The secondary school, I was kind of like everybody's agony on, you know, it's like to this day where people still affectionately call me auntie Jools at school, I felt like I was very protective of my friends who may have been going through some tough times. And then actually getting the nickname sturdy girl. Cause you could always rely on Jools.
Looking after others allowed me to push the thoughts of what was going on in my own head, right to the back of it. It felt a lot easier just to ignore them.
Or there were a mixture of reasons why I didn't seek professional help. That just felt like it was a very grownup thing to do. What child did I know who was going into therapy? You know, I mean, it just sounded something that you saw on films or TV shows the adults were going into therapy to talk through their feelings.
Like, you know, don't do that as a kid and especially in Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, culturally, you kind of don't talk about, about your feelings. That's what I'd grown up around. That's what I've known and that's how it was.
A day in the life of Jools cycling as a teenager would be getting that lovely trusty BMX. That was a hand-me-down from my sister out of the downstairs cupboard, maybe riding over to Stratford and other part of East London to go and see one of my best friends who also used to ride their bike and just spending summer days, just kind of aimlessly riding around.
It made me feel amazing. I was smiling talking to you about it now. It was just about hanging around with your mates on bikes. No agenda, no, nothing. Just happiness and freedom
Before it got too dark. Get back in doors, stick the bike back in the downstairs cupboard. My dad, he would watch all of the news. So that'd be the six o'clock news would come on. He'd watch that. And then at six 30, the local news you'd watch that the nine o'clock news on BBC one, he'd watch that. And then the 10 o'clock news on ITV, he'd watch that as well.
So I'd sit down and watch the news and my dad as well. And I was interested in current affairs and what was going on
My parents were absolutely thrilled when I declared a very young age that I was going to become a barrister. I was kind of obsessed with watching programs about law with my parents. So my dad was a massive fan of a program called Rumpole of the Bailey which I used to love watching with him. The other big thing as well was my cousin on my dad's side of the family, she qualified as a barrister and I thought she was incredible.
When I was at secondary school, you have appointments with career advisors and you also do work experience. So you get a work placement for a week. And I remember my careers advisor at my secondary school. Not particularly taking me seriously at all when I told them that I wanted to, to be a barrister.
You know, maybe you should think about doing something that's better suited to your background and better suited to your academic levels. And I'm like, what on earth is that supposed to mean? I know academically I'm doing very well and what's the insinuation as to what my background is? And the suggestions were clerical work, nursing secretarial work.
You know, that was just her blatant attempt at trying to disguise saying black, like you're you're black. So you're not gonna amount to, to becoming a barrister or having ideas above your station. That's what the insinuation was.
After that meeting with the careers advisor, I felt like I wanted to cry. I felt like trash.
It became very clear a few weeks after the careers advisor meetings that I still hadn't had anything confirmed about a work placement being sorted out for me. That's when my math teacher stepped in, her husband was an immigration lawyer and she managed to set me up to do a work experience placement with him.
It wasn't going to be me going off to like, you know, the Royal courts of justice or something in central London. It wasn't going to be that. And you know, she's apologizing for the fact that something that wasn't her fault, she couldn't fix it, but she could offer some kind of solution. So I was, I was really grateful for that.
I'm not going to lie. There was also something, it felt comfortable to be able to talk to her about it. Cause she was black. I think she, now that I think about it probably really understood how hurtful that was for me, a young black girl being told that for all I know she could have had the same thing happens to her when she was younger too
I went and spent a week with him at his immigration law firm. It was an incredible week. Like, you know, even when I think back to it now I have vivid memories of going with him to meet like, you know, some of his clients that he was taking on and that will always stay with me as a positive memory. But I think it was when I actually started to study law, I realized I don't want to do this. But It was kind of too late now. Cause we are on that road, there's no left or right turn coming up. We're just going straight down that road. So, you know, it's like right. I'll stick with it and see what happens.
And the compromise came when it was applying to go to university. So I decided to do politics with law. So law became the minor when I actually had those days when I was studying and I would open up one of my big thick tomes of a law textbook.
The panic would set him, what am I doing? I'd be looking at it. I'd be taking the information in. And it just felt like it was just leaking out of the side of my head. Like I'm taking it in and it's just going straight out.
But sturdy, sensible Jools is going to do this very sensible, serious degree because she's going to get a very sensible and serious job at the end of it, cause that's what Jools is supposed to do. And, you know, I didn't have the guts or the confidence to say something. So I rolled with it.
So, yeah, I'd finished university like 2004 had no idea what I was supposed to be doing after uni at all. And I accidentally fell into being an admissions officer at the university of East London. Okay, cool. Sturdy, sensible, Jools. We'll stick with this for maybe a year, maybe a year. And during that time at this desk job, I can figure out what it is that I want to do next.
And then seven years later, my ass was still sat at that desk working.
So I met my now partner, Ian, when it was still weird to meet people on the internet, we'd been chatting on an online techno music forum. And then, you know, we actually met properly in real life. It was quite clear that we fancied each other. There was a connection between the two of us and, you know, we, we got together, which is nice.
So when I got back into riding bikes, when I was 28 years old, I started up a blog to go with it called Velo City Girl. I love keeping diaries and journals. And because this felt like a whole new chapter in my life, getting back on a bike after having not ridden for 10 years, I wanted to chat what this journey was about.
It was also important for me to have this blog. So the other people out there who were like me, so other, you know, young black women could be looking at that and thinking, well, if she can do it, I can too. Cause I wa, I wasn't seeing that level of representation when I got back into cycling.
A typical day in the Velo City Girl slash Lady Velo blogging land. So there was a great day where we cycled from home in East London, all the way over to Chelsea. A friend of ours had a really lovely deli called Melograno. Hanging around in the deli and taking photos of it and being outside in the sunshine and posing with the Pashley to take pictures was all glossy and beautiful and wonderful.
And, you know, it's cycle back home with Ian. And the first thing I would do would be getting my laptop and my notebook out and just making notes of everything that happened through the day to turn it into, to a lovely blog post. It genuinely was a nice day. It genuinely was nice to share with the world.
It wasn't the whole truth though, because obviously there were still other things going on with me, like, you know, secretly dealing with my depression behind the scenes, but there were nice things to talk about. So that's what I wanted to concentrate on with what I was putting on Velo City Girl at the time.
My depression, I thought I had it under control because I wasn't letting my emotions show. I was battling on. I had bigger things to think about and to deal with, to keep me occupied. And I just thought I was doing a good job of keeping a lid on it.
So I think 2008, 2009 is when. But things got bad medically for my mum, she was getting ill. It was clear that actually going out to work was becoming difficult for her because of the various illnesses and co-morbidities that she had, it was terrifying. It was really terrifying. So yeah, despite all of that, I thought I'm good.
I'm alright, I'm keeping a lid on it. It's fine. And it wasn't until that moment that happened in the kitchen.
Ian was with me that weekend and we were doing the washing up together. I was on drying duties, so he was passing the dishes and stuff over to me. And I was drying one of the wine glasses and it was like all of my cognitive skills had just vanished, like I'm drying the glass and it just flew out of my hand and smashed on the floor. And the smashing of the glass just felt like me. I just collapsed in a heap on the floor.
Thankfully not in the glass, but I just collapsed on the floor in tears. Cause it just felt like this, this is it. This, this is the perfect example of how I'm feeling at the moment that everything just suddenly stopped making sense and just smashed to pieces. And that was when Ian knew that the true extent of what was going on with me, because as much as you know, he was my partner who I felt like I could talk to about everything and anything, I told myself the last thing he would want to hear, and the last thing I would want to do on our weekends that we have together is talk about what's going on inside of my head.
So, um, yeah, I poured my heart out to him on the kitchen floor, and that was the moment when I realized I don't have a hold on this.
Even as an adult, I didn't seek professional help because therapy costs money. I think sometimes people forget the fact that it's easy to say to someone, go and see a therapist and talk these things through. If you can drop a hundred and something pounds an hour to go and see someone, I, I didn't have that.
I still needed something to bring the joy back into cycling for me because privately the love had gone. And that was crushing because cycling meant so much to me and had given me so much, it was very wild to suddenly have no passion and no love and no desire for what was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me.
To be able to find that love and that joy again, I had to do it at a pace that worked for me, something, like I said, that didn't have external pressures from other people. That whole thing of you know “cut out on a bike ride with us. You'll feel great. It will do wonders for your mood.” And it's like, no, because being around people is something I also don't want to do as well.
So, I thought to myself and Ian had thought this as well. Maybe we just do something that's just us that slow and enjoyable Coffee Cycle Saturday. I enjoy coffee. I love cycling. And Saturday, as far as I was concerned was the best day of the week to do anything. Cause then you can just chill out on Sunday, just cycling around London with a vague idea in our heads of somewhere to go to and finding a decent coffee shop.
The first very, very memorable Coffee Cycle Saturday was when we were going to ride from home in East London, and we were going to head over towards Tower Bridge.
One of the big things in London on a Saturday, it was going to places like Borough Market, but there was a sort of break off market like Maltby Street Market. That was a smaller, quieter version that we'd go to. And Monmouth Coffee had their roastery there. We had this obsession with eating donuts from St. John Bakery.
And then we would like peddler bikes around to get to Monmouth. And we'd sit down with a bikes parked up next to us and we'd find a seat outside. And the donuts would be in a paper bag, rip the bag in half to make a makeshift plate. And then there was the majesty of ripping the donut in half lit was just rich and anxious and oh, just good. And your flat white, just sitting out in a Saturday sunshine, that was the day.
It reminded me of what it was like when I was a kid. And I used to ride around with my friends on my BMX, that it didn't have to be ladened with proving to the world that you were great at cycling or proving to the world that Lady Velo can do all these things. Coffee Cycle Saturdays reconnected me. It rekindled the love.
Bigger things that I never expected to ever happen from the blog came along. So BBC World News wanted to talk to me about cycling culture in London. Um, ended up appearing on Newsnight a couple of times as well, talking about cycling culture. That was very strange. Um, I still think of Newsnight as that, you know, one of the news programs that my dad would have to watch, like when he would come home from work, and he was so, so proud of me, the words of my careers advisor definitely rang loud in my head whenever I did anything like Newsnight.
Then getting invited to be a guest on The Cycle Show and led to a part-time TV presenting job.
Since starting Velo City Girl, the TV presenting work that's coming along, the radio work that I've done, the writing that's happened, going on to actually being able to call myself a bestselling author. That's all lovely. Not going to lie, It's very nice. But the germ of all of it feels like it was Coffee Cycle Saturday.
It set me up to allow me to, to rediscover myself again.
Scott Bentley: Thank you very much for sharing your story Jools and, and thank you to our listeners for tuning in. We hope you really enjoyed that.
Jools Walker: Now, this podcast was produced by James Harper, the creator of the coffee, podcasts Filter Stories. And he also wrote and plays the piano music that you hear tinkling away in the background.
Scott Bentley: So, if you want to hear more stories like this, follow James, his podcast Filter Stories, and there's a link in the show notes.
Jools Walker: And also, if you want to hear more about my story, you can pick up my book, which is called “Back in the Frame, cycling belonging, and finding joy on a bike.” And there's a link in the show notes.
Scott Bentley: Now we're working on putting together series two.
Jools Walker: Wahoo
Scott Bentley: So please set us what you'd like to cover. Did you enjoy this episode? Were there other episodes you really enjoyed? Please let us know. So we know what we can make that you're going to really enjoy next time.
Jools Walker: Yay
Scott Bentley: Now you can follow Caffeine Magazine on Instagram, @caffeinemag, you can follow Jools @LadyVelo and you can follow our producer, James Harper @FilterStoriesPodcast.
Jools Walker: Now, in the meantime, keep your eyes on this feed because we're going to drop some other good stuff in between, as we put together, season two.
Scott Bentley: Take care until next time.