And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means
Time did not however allow me to play and be golden in his mercy for long this morning! The Duchess and I spotted sunshine after a spell of rain – and the way the sun shone, like the sky would never ever be gloomy – and took off. The **moment** we left it started to pour again. When am I going to learn to look up and believe weather forecasts.
In the tunnel, I met a dude with an uber cool bike. I broke London Rule #1: Do not make conversation with strangers. Gawking at his yellow-black bike, I had to ask him about it. You see this wasn’t just any ordinary bike. This was a recumbent bicycle as he explained. As he drove off I couldn’t help thinking that it did look a bit scary. But oh so cool.
I think every bike in the world is special. I don’t know what about them makes them so special to me. Perhaps it is because they represent freedom and childhood joys? Or simplicity. It doesn’t have to cost too much to own one. Perhaps it is because every cycle to me looks slightly sad, almost as if it is longing to ride away on its own? Whatever the reason, I have built up a small collection of pictures of what I like to call “abandoned cycles” (which are of course usually just parked and not abandoned).
Check out this little sweetheart for instance. Though I don’t agree with the indiscriminate paint job, which didn’t spare even her brakes or bell, look at those lovely little stars in the spikes. Imagine how they must look in motion – like a dream. Like a magic spell coming to life. Like they will carry the rider towards the sky. Everything a bike stands for (to me at least).
Speaking of abandoned, this bike here looks like it has been comprehensively left to its own devices on a cold winter morning in Amsterdam. Poor thing. Left in the middle of the road like that.
But at least its fate is slightly better than that of the bikes pushed into the freezing canals at night. I fished one out – it was hanging still chained to the railing – then another and then gave up when I realized there were many hapless bikes in need of rescue.
Here’s another picture from Amsterdam – something we definitely need to see more of in London.
- Waving to myself (sethgodin.typepad.com)
And as a follow-up to my promise to myself, documented publicly in my last post (if this were a classy blog, there would have been a link to the last post but evidently it’s not), I went to a couple of London markets yesterday. This was aided by the fact that Snackle is visiting the city currently and I have someone to go out with. I met up with her at Tower Hill and we headed south of the river, crossing Tower Bridge, stopping for a coffee on the way and taking in the wet sunshine – the lovely bright rays of sun after a few showers. There were so many people! So many tourists! Everyone getting in the way. But the atmosphere and weather were lovely. I felt a bit proud to be living in such a grand city, with the whole world descending down on it and looking in awe at the structures which I’ve come to know and love. We meandered through the crowds to Southwark Cathedral and then Borough Market, checking out the stalls. A great place to buy cheese and other fresh produce. I couldn’t resist buying some vegetables and mushrooms – they looked so fresh and bright. After stopping at a food stall for a quick bite, we decided to go east to Shoreditch. We went to the Sunday food market there and pigged on spring rolls, burritos and some regrettable Ethiopian food. We strolled back towards Tower Hill and I convinced Snack to come south of the river with me to my neighbourhood tavern, overlooking the river. Over shandies we looked at the evening river traffic, the seagulls skimming the sky, people enjoying the last rays of bright sun for the day, dogs in bliss with their eyes closed. The sound of the river lapping at the banks. Bliss.
Back home I watched two chick flicks back to back, late into the night. One being ‘Serendipity’ and the other being ‘The Leap Year’. Again, if this were a classy blog there would have been imdb links, but it isn’t 😉 I always wanted to see Serendipity. I was a bit disappointed.
I was back on my bike today to go to work. Such a great feeling. I find it easier to pick her up and carry her up and down the stairs. She’s stopped whacking me as well. We understand each other better now. It’s fun to swap stories with the other bikers at work. I was told about the mental biker game (not a biker who is mental but a game played mentally) where you give yourself points for every biker you overtake (extra points if they’re wearing lycra) and deduct points for every time you are overtaken. I am in such a deficit!
Is there anything more satisfying than sleeping when you are absolutely physically drained because of exercise?
On a different note, finally saw The Last Samurai today. Wonderful movie! Don’t know why I resisted watching it for so long. So different from yesterday’s movie, Chinatown. Which was also fun but a very different genre. I’m thoroughly enjoying my lovefilm subscription 🙂
Two days and the people at the corner store already have started volunteering to watch my bike while I buy small ticket groceries. So sweet.
More compliments for the Duchess today, and I don’t mean Kate. Random people smile at her sweet basket or admire her colour. Cute bike. Awww. She’s a posh bike. A bit of a snob. Stands out completely in the bike stand with her head held high, shining. A bit aloof from the rest. I always feel like I should be wearing more dignified clothes when I’m on her, not tees and tights.
15 little bruises – most sustained because the bike likes to whack me with her pedals when I pick her up.
2 days of biking.
1 very comic fall – I wasn’t even riding dammit! It’s a little pathetic when you fall when you were struggling to go uphill in your frikkin car park. And you fall in slow motion. Even gravity is laughing at you, you look that stupid. And for anyone who was wondering – the bike is ok, she “fell” on me.
2 acts of kindness by strangers – one helped with the chain, one helped to pick it up on steps
200000 – the number of colleagues who know about my new bike and have been made to see pictures
1 instance of getting stuck in a narrow staircase trying to change her direction while picking her up
16.2 kg is what the Duchess weighs in at
There’s always more to say when I’m travelling but since working abroad is also a part of travelling (technically) I have sworn to document that as well.
The weekend started with a bang – the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday night and the added bonus of seeing it with other humans! Joy! Drinks were brought in early on Friday evening and most of the office was empty anyway. Some of us were sitting over beers staring at the yachts parked in the wharf outside, when my team assistant asked me where I was watching the opening ceremony. My answer horrified her (home, on my laptop) and she swiftly issued me an invite to her friend’s party. I accepted and a surprisingly peaceful Jubilee line ride later, found myself at Pimlico. Our host was very kind and fed me some pasta right away. Being Hungarian, there was also stuffed cabbage and sour cream but that was off my menu since it was stuffed with meat. It looked good in any case – cabbage always does to me. Most people at the party were very friendly, all were Hungarian and I didn’t feel out of place at all. I even met an old gentleman who was set to retire in September. I asked him if he looked forward to it and if he had any plans. I qualified my questions with “since I am relatively new in my career, I just want to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel”. He was very positive about the whole thing and his only fear was being lethargic and not doing enough. He had a lottery ticket too and was hoping to win (of course). My feelings towards the ceremony itself varied from mild embarrassment to fascination. In any case, some of us including me left after the Hungarian and Indian teams walked by. Luckily both countries are alphabetically close to each other.
The next day of course was the inevitable late start. Determined to improve my life, I went to the bike store nearby to try on some bikes. Having viewed some at a store near the office on Friday and having followed up with some more research I had a better idea of what I wanted. I always wanted something pretty and those retro bikes with their baskets and old-school look make my heart go boom-ticky-boom. They were very sweet at the store, making some technical adjustments to refit the bike to my height. I liked a Firefox Classic, a black hybrid retro with a large wicker basket. I was asked to take it out for a test. I hesitated and asked the gentleman to accompany me. Which he did on his bike, teaching me how to change gears and brake and handle the bike around corners. He asked me how the bike felt and I told him it felt like glory. I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t been biking all these years. The wind on my face, the sensation of being close to flight. Back at the store, I also asked to try another bike – the Dawes Duchess. And boy did it feel significantly better. Lighter, lower and with the handles a little more forward than the other. I took this out on on my own and even rode along the river path. The only problem being this wasn’t the colour I wanted. They could order it for me. I realised that the store near my office was offering it at a discount which would cover the cost of the lock and partly the helmet too. I told them I needed to think over it and left, feeling extremely guilty.
I got back home for a bit of laundry. One of my colleagues was attending an Olympic event close by and we met up. I showed him around being the regional “expert” and he left impressed with the river and the sail boats, cruise ships and clippers drifting along. Also the brilliant weather and spectacular sunset – anyone would love this place.
I made my way back home thinking how much nicer it would be to bike instead of walk, critically evaluating every passing bike. The cabbage fest continued back home – I tossed some raw cabbage from the previous day in with mustard seeds, olive oil and chilies. Vinit, it’s so simple to make! You have to like it! Entertainment for the night – a few episodes of Mrs.Brown’s Boys.
Another late start to the day. A quick breakfast of tea, toast and honey. Some more laundry (no it never ends!). A cleaning experiment – I mixed sodium bicarbonate with white vinegar and applied it on the grout-inflicted areas in the bathroom. Still waiting to see how this will turn out.
A trip down to the bike store near work. Oh and a falafel sandwich partly shared with a friendly (or just hungry?) pigeon. I knew what I wanted and asked them for it. When the shop attendant was getting my retro bike out for a test ride, one of the other customers – a mother who was buying a racing bike for her little son – mumbled to her partner “looks like Mary Poppins’ bike”. Oh what do you know about beauty.
I strapped on my helmet, wore a neon jacket, paid 1 penny with my credit card and handed in my driver’s license and card to them. I headed out with the bike and it started to pour. I cycled on the pavement, at one point even scaring some pedestrians (hehe) when I was changing gears going “uphill”. I did a turn in the rain and got back to the shop. I must have been out all of 2 minutes and I think they were surprised to see me back so quick. I felt guilt pangs again while placing the order, the other shop was so much friendlier but this shop’s price was so much lower. My cream+raspberry coloured bike will be in on Tuesday. Most people whom I’d shown the bike online to had felt it looked “too girly”. But I think I like it. I hope its looks don’t disappoint me. I’m secretly in love with the Pashley Britannia but that’s really pushing my budget.
On my way back I bought some groceries and a weekend newspaper (bit late for that). Got home, more laundry. Some mild pottering about with the plants. A balcony “brush down” with a stiff broom – I enjoyed that. Caught the last rays of the sun on my balcony.
Made beans for din din. I like to leave the tomatoes fairly fat and juicy and not induce them to “leave water” or too “liquidy”. I also like putting in pav bhaji masala and always some extra salt. That and haldi is all the seasoning you need. If you really want to take it over the top you just need to squeeze a lime and add some coriander. I also feel there is some merit in allowing nearly the same cooking time to the potatoes and beans. That way the potatoes which take less time to cook than the beans become soft and crumbly while the beans are just mildly soft. Overcooking the beans makes them too soft and their flavour changes to one I don’t like as much. A nice variation for a subtle change of taste is to use coarse sea salt instead of fine salt. I had my beans with toasted nutty wheat bread and a sweet salad with a vinaigrette of olive oil + white vinegar + very little salt + mixed herbs. A nice end to a relaxed weekend. I plan to continue reading the paper now for some time. And then “The Balkans” by Mark Mazower closer to bed time.