Today literally felt like the first truly relaxed weekend after a really long while. Which is odd because I can’t remember doing much over the last weeks at all and I haven’t been travelling either. So I put it down to feeling for the first time in a really long while that I won’t be having a horribly crazy week ahead. Life since I got back from my holiday in Turkey this august has been a blur – a series of no breakfast, lunch at desk, 10 hour plus (on good days) workdays, followed by the cleansing (i.e numbing) of the mind by television and the weekends of doing who knows what. There was a brief and sweet interlude in Thailand and India followed by the same craziness and frenzied work travel. Why do our lives move at such a fast speed?
Anyway, this weekend I woke up relatively early on Saturday. Relatively considering I was out with colleagues Friday and overslept on the night bus and had to walk back home in the cold once I did wake up. If only I had crossed the road I could have taken another bus but that never seemed to occur to me.
Something else that didn’t occur to me as I struggled to find my row in the cinema – first by the light of my iPad and then with the light from my mobile – was that in a seven-row theatre, row D is likely to be the fourth. I even asked a guy in the third row what the alphabet was. I realised how stupid I’d been only after I took my seat. My cheeks burning with embarrassment I finally felt I was proper awake. The movie itself, Nebraska, was great and I do recommend it.
I strolled down Mare Street and found myself face to face with Tre Viet and so had my second lunch of the day. The first had been leftovers from Thursday night.
Then a train ride to Central London (after accidentally walking over to London Fields which looked lovely with its autumn leaves laid out as dense carpets. The warm orange-yellow evening sky made it seem even more surreal.) and I was headed in the general direction of the National Gallery. Passing through soho, I lingered at the old books displayed on the street outside the store. Buying some shampoo at a hair salon I didn’t resist when the assistant wanted to show me how to make ringlets in my straight hair with a straightener. He put in two, I didn’t buy the product but walked about for the rest of the evening with ringlets in one section of my hair.
I reached Trafalgar Square. A street musician had started to play the opening notes of Spanish romance, I stopped to listen but he started chatting with someone and broke off. The gallery was open for less than half hour. So I ran up the stairs, passed through several eras by just crossing rooms and just let the paintings fly at me. I looked at some I knew and some I didn’t know and then the adoration of the Magi pulled me into its room and I wondered again why the other walls of that room were so poorly lit in comparison.
I went away at closing time and paid my respects to the Thames. I tried not to notice the whole world there. The eye looked grand. The river grander – dark liquid lit by scores of lights.
All the city has its Christmas lights on. It’s a magical wonderful feeling and this year doesn’t fill me with loneliness because I know I won’t be alone anymore in less than two weeks.
Moggie seems to have left me for good. She turned up just once over the past several weeks and that already has been more than a fortnight. Did I just dream that cat up? Once when I was returning home from work, I thought I spotted her in alley close to home. I ran calling out her name. I must have looked ridiculous chasing cats in dark streets with a can of milk in my hand (I’d just bought it since I’d run out) like some sort of cat stalker. Anyway it wasn’t even Moggie but that imposter that looks like her.
Photo from my birthday. At Richmond, by the Thames.
London’s iconic landmarks make it very easy for us locals to take out-of-towners sightseeing. And no matter how many times you’ve done it, it’s not easy to tire of the walk from green park towards Buckingham palace (assuming you’ve avoided the changing of the guards ceremony) and then towards Westminster and the London Eye. The Thames looked smashing today, reflecting the lovely blue sky. The parks were full of crisp, fallen autumn leaves, the sun shining through the trees. We took the tube from Westminster station to South Kensington to take in the natural history museum. Winter is coming and the ice rink is up and running outside the museum.
This was a good weekend and I have to say participating in Ride London’s free cycle event has to be among the most fun things I’ve done in this city on my own. I realised that I wanted to participate pretty late, on Friday evening. But it took perhaps a minute or two to register. The route was circular and about 8 miles long looping around tower hill in the east to St. James’s park in the west, and cyclists could join wherever they liked. I checked the tyres on the Duchess and we were off. The intention was to get there early to avoid the massive crowds but it was Saturday and I did linger over tea. So it was past 11 am that I left. I cycled to Monument and joined the route there.
The first few moments were amazing! I could not believe the number of people who were already cycling and I could not get over the fact that there were no cars to worry about! I felt happy and proud to be part of a big event for something that really matters to me. I spent the first few minutes cycling on the left, out of habit but then warmed to the idea of just wheeling wherever I wanted. Also parents tended to keep their kids towards the left of the road so it was a bit slow there. Speed wise the pace was slower than comfortable and some overtaking was in order in many stretches. Also sometimes some people would slow things down if they were having a conversation but why not, after all the event was meant to foster a positive attitude towards cycling and get more people to bike.
The Thames as usual looked beautiful, the sky was blue and cheesy it might have been for some people to ride along iconic landmarks but i thought it was lovely to cycle past Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the Palace and the beautiful parks. I half expected the Queen to be on her balcony waving at us. But that understandably didn’t happen.
I left earlier than I wanted to, to make it to a colleague’s birthday party. I had to quell all my apprehensions of meeting strangers and force myself to go. I told myself that being invited to someone’s home gives me an insight into their life and blabbity blah and that I did move here to meet new people and blah blah. It turned all right in the end.
Today I had to force myself to go shopping (I seem to have to force myself a lot these days for all sorts of things!) so that I could brighten up my holiday wardrobe (Turkey! End of this week! Yes!). Because I feel so terribly conscious sometimes I’ve been telling myself to pretend I’m invisible. It’s quite liberating but I feel a bit mental at the same time. Shopping was a success, I timed my visit with just over an hour to go until shops shut. I preferred the morning and afternoon hours to pursue the classic Sunday activity of sitting on my arse and doing nothing. Oh except cleaning up the apartment thoroughly, oiling the Duchess and cleaning her up, doing two hundred loads of laundry and some cooking. Bueno!
Today was a great day. In the true spirit of this city, everyone has been longing forever for nice, hot and sunny days. We finally had them and now everyone can’t stop talking about how it is too hot and how it is hard to sleep at night. Well today was slightly cooler and the sun hid behind the clouds for much of the morning and afternoon in disgust. But for the Duchess and me, it was just perfect-o.
Today we investigated the back roads leading to London Fields, where we hung out for a while under a gorgeous tree. Then we rode to Victoria Park. And true to our own spirit, we took a more circuitous route through Wells Street Common because we just didn’t realise our sense of direction going to sleep again. But doesn’t matter because in the end we made it to Victoria Park. There was some sort of event in the park and there were loads of people milling about, but thankfully in only a certain part. It was great cycling there though – we rode around the upper part of the “boot”, the leg before crossing over to the other side through Grove Road. We cycled about in the park some more, and then took some lazy shots. And then we made our way back home via Regent’s Canal, cycling up to Haggerstone and then joining Kingsland Road, which is slightly uphill leaving me panting for breath, hoping for more red signals. But they all changed to green just as I approached them. Haha. The route in total is just under 10 miles and I thought the best bits was cycling around the parks. I also thought that the stretch of Regent’s Canal I did today was a lot more pleasant than the one from Limehouse though there was a lot of apologizing to pedestrians for asking them to move aside.
P.S. Happy anniversary to my blog 🙂