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I had the most ridiculous commute to work today. Long story. Developed economy + weird immigration policies + shortage of “semi-skilled” workers = broadband takes 4 months to set up. Yes, four months. Broadband. Not fibre optic but broadband, needs phone line. Four months because if you reschedule, their silly system doesn’t seem to register it even though you get a confirmation email. So yes, I had to stay back home today waiting for an engineer to come fix my phone line so that I could finally have broadband after months of waiting (do I finally have it, no I don’t because they still haven’t sent me my router, though I am being billed from today on). End of rant 1.

But this story isn’t about that. It’s about the Duchess. My beautiful bike and the adventures she forces me to have. Because I was to go to the office past 10 am today (refer rant 1 above), I thought I could bike to the train station, carry the Duchess on the overground and then cycle from Wapping station.  So far so good, we’re on the train without incident until I think surely I can take her onto the underground too, why get off at Wapping and spend time cycling? At Shadwell station, as a gentleman got up to alight, his bag fell open and a number of his personal items fell to the floor. He hastily assembled his belongings but by the time he sprinted to the door, he was too late and missed his stop. Just as the announcement came on proclaiming the next stop to be Wapping, he looked at me, I said , “oh dear” and he said “We’re going to Wapping”. I should have taken that as an omen.

So I switched at Canada Water from the Overground to the ungerground and just about missed a train. While I waited for the next, an announcement came up – “Will the passenger with the bike please be advised that you cannot take your bike onto the jubilee line as it is not a folding bike?”. Embarrassment. Acute, oh so acute.

What the hell! I’ve seen bikes on the jubilee loads of times! The voice continued to instruct me as I felt every eye bore into me – “If you make your way to the ticket counter, you can speak to a member of staff about an alternate routes”. Oh gosh. The voice went on to instruct me about the direction I needed to take to find the elevator when I appeared to flounder. It was getting a bit stale now.

Anyway, it turned out that the best way was to indeed go back to Wapping (I’m going back to Wapping!) and cycle from there to work. I waited about 4 minutes for a train. At Wapping (where there is a gap between the train and the platform requiring you to lift your bike), I saw steps and no elevator. I wasn’t going to carry my heavy bike on that! So I waited for the next train to go to Shadwell (again 4 minutes). I was pretty sure I’d used an elevator there in the past. I was beginning to feel pretty desperate to get to work by this stage. This was taking forever! At Shadwell, steps again! What! Resigned to my fate, I realized I had to do it. Someone kindly offered to help carry it and we got her up together.

And then everything changed. Just outside Shadwell was the Cycle Superhighway 3 (CS3) marked in bright blue. We just whizzed from that point on, sailing in the air. The wind in our faces, poetry in every move, every turn. I was late to work, it was afternoon, but it was sheer glory – I was on my bike.

Even a basically directionless person like me can follow a marked path. Thanks Boris. Sadly the path did come to an end and then I was on my own and a bit lost but I did eventually make it. The  first time I biked to work (well part of the way anyway) since I moved to this apartment.

In the evening, I didn’t have the heart to leave behind the Duchess in the cold parking lot. So I printed out a route map, putting aside fears of exploring a new route in the dark for the first time. I didn’t get a chance to look at it too often and I did get waylaid a few times but in the end I made it back home. It almost felt like a conquest.

The cat was on my doorstep and let me pat her. She stared in awe at the Duchess and made way for her. I put out a bowl of milk for her and ordered pizza for myself.

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