Monday, 31 January 2011

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday I pedalled  down to Columbia Road Flower Market to meet some friends for lunch. The place was fringed with bicycles, fixies, racers and dutch cargo bikes alike. The nippy, east-end flash of the skinny steeds is certainly attractive, but far less practical for an outing like that. Trusty's basket was loaded with roses for the sunny cycle back through Canonbury, and pretty much everyone who passed broke into a smile at the sight.

Elsewhere in the city, it is notable how the first surge of New Year's Resolution cyclists has tailed away rapidly as the cold has returned. The streets are as quiet now as they were in the December snow-and party sparked lull. This makes me sad, because those cattle trucks beneath our feet are keeping people from the joys of winter. Granted, the days when it is both cold AND wet can be fairly unpleasant, but days like today, when the sun is out and sky is blue are absolutely glorious to cycle in. Yes, you need two sets of gloves, a really good neck warmer, an ear band and two pairs of socks, but it is totally worth it. If I could recreate the pink cheeked glow I'm left with after a sunny winter ride I'd be a cosmetics millionaire.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The best cycling streets in London (Part 6)

Now, I realise that after a day as glorious as today, every street seems like the best cycling street. With the wind at your back, the sun on your face and the very faint first scent of spring the city is a wonderland on two wheels. And The Aldwych is not at first glance an obvious choice- three or four lanes of traffic at most points, weaving buses and dopey tourists on their way to see Dirty Dancing The Musical. However, ever since seeing Happy-Go-Lucky with the amazing Sally Hawkins, in which the lead character Poppy comes zooming round the semi-circle of Aldwych in the first scene I'd had a soft spot for it. (Incidentally, if you've ever had a beloved bicycle stolen you will also appreciate that film). Obviously, the traffic is cleared for her but not for us quotidian cyclists, but if you're feeling brave and willing to get your weave on you'll love it. In the summer it is one of the greenest roads in central London, lined with majestic trees. On bright winter days like today the bare branches reveal some of the grandest architecture we've got to offer- the towering columns of Bush House, sturdy St Clement's Dane and the imposing back entrance of Somerset House. On one end of the island there is the Indian embassy, always decorated by a queue of people wanting visas dressed in glorious technicolour. I may be biased because I know that just the other side of Somerset House the Thames, the soul of the city, surges past, changing colour and freshening the air at the bottom of Kingsway. Perhaps if I battle with the buses on a grey and rainy day I will change it to the 'worst cycling' streets list, but I don't think so. See what you think.

Image by Ben30

Friday, 14 January 2011

Blues and Greys

January is a funny time isn't is? Let's be honest, the climactic conditions are hardly conducive to an upbeat mood, and this year it seems to have been particularly unpleasant. For many people the New Year is a time for a little light life-evaluation,  and the battleship grey skies don't provide a particularly helpful backdrop. We make resolutions mainly on the basis of what we feel we have failed at the preceding year. What a great place to start. We go over our lives with a fine tooth comb, looking for flaws. Where are we at in our career, our love life, our appearance? Are we the people we'd hoped to be, this time last year? Are we, on all levels, a success?

Perhaps January seems especially  glum to me this year because I'm more aware of the underpinning anxiety about the future. Fewer people will have jobs by this time next year. Most of us will be a bit poorer. And a lot of us (me included) don't know where it is we want to be and therefore have no idea how to aim for it.

This is a bike blog, and therefore I'm supposed to bring all this therapeutic musing back onto topic. And actually, it is easy to do, because when I'm out and about on Trusty I can't help but feel free and childlike. It's very hard to have a furrowed brow freewheeling down a hill. It sounds overly practical, but when the wind blows through my hair it also lightens my thoughts and lifts my heaviness. It takes me back to basics. Cycling reminds me that I am healthy enough to move at speed, I live in a beautiful city full of precious friends, that anything could happen just around that corner.That hope is intrinsic to mankind. My christian faith and time on my bike help me to cling on to the belief that my life, our lives, mean more than external status, more than where we are on some giant table of success and failure. Even when the January rain threatens to wash it away. I'll just pedal faster and hope to dodge the drops.

Oh, and if all that philosophising fails I'm just going to have to get Trusty one of these.

Image by SusanG2

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Water and Light.

I've written before about my perverse love of cycling in the rain. I'll admit, the last few days of drizzly grottiness have tested this a little, but not broken my commitment to my conclusion. I do however prefer rainy cycling after the sun has gone down than under the heavy steel-grey skies of day. At night the addition of a large quantity of water to the urban landscape changes it for the better. I never get over how beautiful all the lights look on slick streets.Taxis leave twin scarlet wakes on the black canvas. It is naturally occuring abstract art, glossy streaks of white, red and yellow, with the occasional pool of aquamarine green-for-go. It is such an underwater green anyway, isn't it, that most friendly traffic light? Slightly greener than a swimming pool, green like the sea in a hidden caribbean bay.

Yesterday the view was made even more interesting because I had forgotton to put my  contact lenses in. The droplets splatterd across my glasses refracted the lights even further, making my own private kaleidoscope. Not great for safety, I'll admit, but oh so pretty.

Image by Stefan1024