My first tentative pedal pushes came back in January 2013. I’ve learnt from that experience that if you get the wrong bike, one that doesn’t quite fit, then as a new cyclist you will learn to loathe your bike and it’ll be left to gather dust or rust. Like that toasted sandwich maker.
Since collecting that first bike a nineteen months ago my determination to cycle around London has dwindled. When I moved house and I wasn’t sure the bike would fit in the removal van I mumbled that I could leave it behind if needed, it was the drivers determination that saw it come along to Haggerston from Willesden Green. I’ve picked up the odd Boris bike to cycle small distances. I took the plunge to buy a new bike a couple of weeks back and I now resent walking anywhere. Here’s what I’ve found over the past fortnight.
Having a bike frame that fits obviously makes all the difference. Having a local bike shop near me is even better. Though Better Health Bikes aren’t open yet I had the pleasure of meeting Colin when I had problems adjusting my seat. And as it turns out setting the handlebars correctly, fitting my helmet … it goes on. Keep your eye out for their grand opening by following them on Twitter. The bike shop is also a social enterprise so you’ll get your bike looked at and support a social enterprise supporting mental ill-health. And if you’re feeling particularly Parisian and have a basket on your bike you can pop next door to their bakery for la baguette.
It was Colin who stated that “you either go for Victoria Pendleton or Mary Poppins when choosing a bike. You’ve gone for Poppins.” He is spot on. Perhaps this time next year I’ll be Pendleton, but for now Colin is right (I opted for an upright style bike).
Then there was the fantastic team behind Pru Ride London. The confidence I gained cycling around London on my own, not only on the car free route but the journey I made to get to the start line and back was invaluable. From the steady realisation that actually I am not learning to cycle, that I do. To the giddy excitement I felt riding through Blackfriars underpass with a group of strangers who cheered as I shouted “I’m in the peloton.” Nothing could wipe the smile from my face that day, not even as I lay in the bath with the sorest of bums through forgetting my padded shorts as I dashed out that morning.
And finally, the London roads. That great fear I’ve had, my own personal imaginings of that final scene from One Day (the film version being set just down the road). I am aware I could be blogging in a weeks time completely retracting what I’m just about to type but I’m setting it down as it is now. Aside from one Royal Mail van who decided to drive so far up my padded bum (I remember every day now) that letters were spewing out of my mouth, I have found white van drivers, flash convertibles, our double-decker buses, rattly old motors courteous and conscientious. As long as I’ve been cycling sensibly and showing awareness they have as well. It’s sad to say fellow cyclists, especially around Shoreditch, running red lights have caused me a degree of stress on the roads. But even more than that it’s pedestrians running out into the road suddenly to cross, on the green light at crossings or scattered up and down roads. Even people with prams who appear dashing across from behind parked vans, or buses waiting at stops, that really have caused me the most anger, frustration and worry since I’ve been cycling pretty much daily. I truly don’t believe people would take these risks if it was a car so close to them and I’ve tried to reason with why they do so with bikes. The only thing I can think of is in a car you don’t necessarily see the person behind the wheel, you know you’re not harder than cars. On a bike perhaps you appear more human as you’re seen clearly, a lot of people even make direct eye contact as they jump out suddenly, their facial expression saying “sorry, but you’ll stop or swerve suddenly right?”. I know my blog isn’t going to change much about that, but if you read this and are guilty of this behaviour stop and think for your own sake, and if selfish motivation doesn’t help you see reason think of others.
I haven’t blogged in over a year. There was no conscious decision to stop, no one moment where I became bored or lacked the words. In fact there’s been many a time I’ve been frustrated to the limitations of Twitter to get a point across I feel passionate about. I don’t know if this post will be it for another year or until next week. But tonight, as I start to type this on Sunday 3rd August I almost have too many things to say.
That recently I had to take a very long and critical look at myself in the mirror and face up to weight gained, health not quite up to scratch (some of you will be familiar with my blogs on suffering from Tinnitus, add to that a pesky and painful foot injury I’ve not been able to shake this year). I’ve always stated exercise is the hardest routine to get into and the easiest to fall out of. But I’ve recently made it to the gym after bad work days when the devil on my shoulder has been telling me to go for pizza and a bottle of wine. Jumped in the pool when I want to be lying in a park finishing my book. Chopping up a rainbow of lettuce, beetroot, tomatoes instead of boiling the kettle to put the pasta in. Showing myself Tough Love.
That during Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games I’ve thought back to the lows I went through during 2012 which culminated in the high of The Olympics. Those days, I still confidently state, were my happiest in a decade of living in London, and will remain the most inspirational until the day I die. I think it changed me, for the better. This past week, watching amazing athletes like Lynsey Sharp set such a positive role model for young girls everywhere has been a complete joy. I type this waiting for the inevitable montage to round-up the games so I can cry the just as inevitable sports tears.
That today I went to Shuffle Festival’s Day of the Dead, set in the beautifully calm and serene Tower Hamlets Cemetery (my Dad and I can’t be the only ones who find cemeteries peaceful instead of eerie)? I sat listening to a crowd of old east-enders relay their tales of what can be best described under the title of “back in the day”. Complaining about all these retro shops in Brick Lane, thinking fondly on the colourful Sari shops of their youth. How when one of them moved to Somerset the first thing he had to do was learn how to say good morning to people, “do that in the east end people would class you as a loony”. How all these kids are moving to Hackney now because they can’t afford Islington anymore (I had to bite my lip, I wanted to tell them we can’t afford Hackney either). It was like listening to my parents and their friends talk, and because of that, behind my sunglasses I cried happy tears. I sat there until the old nana in her wheelchair finally piped up and said “I wanna go ‘ome”.
So this has been a bit of a montage post I guess. To say look after your health, find inspiration in the people and acts that move you, and to cherish your family. Life is fleeting.
I’ll sign off with the words of one of those lovely east-enders that made me smile so much today. Last cockney to leave turn off the lights.
In April this year I moved to East London. I thought I’d be blogging almost daily as there is always something going on. In truth I’ve been so sidetracked by addictive coffee, wandering down Spitalfields alleys to find old buildings inscribed with Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor, discovering art in unexpected places. I started an East London section in June and since then have not updated it, or this blog much in general. Like many great ideas are born from bacon so was this blog post today.
Today, after a kick up the bum from my sister, I woke with a determination to blog. I decided to kickstart my brain by walking down to Dishoom for breakfast. I fell in love with Whisky Sours in their Permit Bar over my birthday and now I have tasted the future…. the Bacon Naan. I could dream of recreating this but it would be pointless, nothing could come close. Bacon with barely a trace of fat with coriander, chilli chutney and a hint of cream cheese with a freshly baked naan enveloping it. Washed down with chai of course.
I walked off breakfast along Redchurch Street, discovering lyrics from The National in street art from My Dog Sighs. And it was that band that carried my feet all the way to Chatsworth Road Market. Not my first visit to the area but the first time I’ve visited the market (think Broadway Market before it went too middle-class). Full of families, smiles and Pearly Kings and Queens sipping tea. My main reason for walking up there was to visit Clapton Craft’s pop-up in the LBJ shop. I can’t wait until they have a permanent home as the service was exceptional and choice staggering, I went for Elderflower Mikkeller and it’s taking all my will power not to crack open a bottle as I’m typing. Craft beer is my new safe drunk, pain seems lesser in the morning. I swear by it.
I stopped off at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden before heading back indoors for the afternoon and my walk coming full circle. As beautiful in the winter as it is in full bloom. The minute I walk in there I feel my shoulders physically drop (and that was with a back pack stuffed with second-hand books and bottles of beer). I sat down after my wanderings and took stock at how lucky I am to live here. Not just East London but London itself. Come April I’d have been here a decade and truly not a day goes by when I don’t think this. It can come to me at the most ordinary of times, sharing a smile with a stranger at a bus stop. Or it comes on days like this, when I get lost in places now so familiar to me.
1. Tuesday evening we dolled up at the Roundhouse for Arcade Fire, The Reflektors. Red lipstick and a crown of black feathers round my head we were amongst people in outright fancy dress, face paints, mariachi band and sadly the downright dull (those rigid in their seats around us, not so much as twitching into a grin). The view from the seats was amazing, we danced regardless of the dullards & the choreographed crowd dancing to We Exist was utterly moving to behold. Beautiful evening and a good excuse to post their video from the YouTube awards recently.
2. Once Clet Abraham catches the corner of your eye it seems impossible not to notice his signs. Like those who haven’t walked along the road with their eyes fixed on their phones suddenly have a clarity of mind to keep their eyes peeled and look up, you will be rewarded. And every single one will make you smile secretly. He has truly caught my attention and heart, glad he has graced our London streets.
3. Indie guitar bands are very much nudging their way back to the forefront of the music scene (thanks to the likes of TOY, Tame Impala and Temples). All the T’s. The latter played Camden’s Electric Ballroom on Friday and were great to see live. Frontman James Edward Bagshaw looking like a man quietly confident and resplendent in glittering sequins.
4. The KK Outlet on Hoxton Square currently have an exhibition of Anthony Burrill’s work on, I Like It. What Is It? Most known for the above piece, created after he heard an elderly lady speaking to someone in a supermarket. Sound advice to live by.
5. TV is no longer an event, just one inane programme after the other with the occasional bit of brilliance dropped in (Luther, The Escape Artist, Misfits). In a week Doctor Who will celebrate its 50th anniversary and it will be a huge event, few programmes could create such excitement. And if you did miss it for some bizarre reason (and what a well-kept secret) watch the mini episode released this week. The Night of the Doctor. I dare you not to gasp, grin and go giddy.
I’ve not blogged for a while. I was thinking today that a lot of the things I put up on my weekly round ups really inspire me (apart for food, that’s just a primal urge I guess). I’m genuinely grateful that music can move me to tears, books can transport me to another place and London never ever fails to impress and engage me. Anyway, it’s been a brilliant week.
1. I’ve had to try to limit the amount I watch the Spike Jonze directed live music video for Arcade Fire featuring Greta Gerwig. The song Afterlife is hugely emotive but I love how dance really adds to the sentiment behind this track. Frances Ha is definitely my favourite film this year and Great is perfection in this creative genius.
2. I’ve just finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I barely put it down. Cleverly told story of an eccentric and brilliant mother told via traditional fiction interspersed with emails linking the characters together from an author responsible for the likes of Arrested Development and SNL.
3. I’m guilty of emerging from most gigs with the glow of alcohol rosy on my cheeks sighing “that was my gig of the year” on most occasions but Villagers at Heaven under the arches on Thursday really was utterly magical. I think it’s a modern indication of a bands brilliance live by the lack of mobile phones you see glowing in the crowd. I barely saw one, the audience rapt and attention focused on being in the moment.
4. Aldwych disused station tour only opens a handful of times a year and we were lucky enough to travel underground on a guided tour with London Transport Museum. Did you know not only did the station shelter thousands of Londoners during the war but also the Elgin Marbles and armed guards kept watch over the National Galleries collection? The station is a listed building, the history fascinating and has been used for films, shelter and drills during the Olympics last year if something was to go wrong with hundreds of people on the tubes. If you ever get the chance to do this don’t hesitate in booking up. More photos on my instagram.
1. Pizza Pilgrims permanent home on Dean Street in Soho has stolen my heart. Although all that usually takes is somewhere that serves a Negroni (they do) the pizza’s here are the best in London served by happy smiles and polite staff (the complete opposite of how Pizza East seem to be serving people recently). Order the Napoli Salami and you’ll never look at a pepperoni again. I’ll be making many return visits for a pizza fix and next time I want to save room for Affogato (vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso). Two pizzas and four (alcoholic of course) drinks came to £36.50.
2. Aside from my sister chanting “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher” Have I Got News For You, and especially Ian Hislop, was the first thing to make me not only pay attention to politics and the press (closer bed fellows than we once thought) but to also make me question what I was being fed. That would have been as a teenager (it’s been running for twenty-three years). This week I got to sit in the studio audience, completely in awe and giddy with nerdy happiness. Amazing experience.
3. I was heartbroken when LCD Soundsystem called it a day. But my heart is slowly healing seeing as James Murphy is filling his time remixing, elongating and producing tracks from some of my favourite artists. This week his mix of David Bowie’s Love is Lost.
4. You only have one more week to see The Memory Palace at the V&A, it’s worth dashing to South Kensington for. Hari Kunzru latest work of fiction is a walk in book with illustrations from illustrators, designers and typographers, set in future London. From lamenting the NHS to glimpses of our Olympic Village in ruins. You get to save one memory in this future. In the V&A you get to submit yours at the end.
5. The Science Museum has opened a Media Space and launches with Only In England. Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr. This runs until March 2014, photographers and people curious in our culture and social characteristics would find this fascinating. Both men documented English life, focusing on our seaside towns. Shots of Margate and Broadstairs especially giving me that warm cosy feeling of reminiscing of our family holidays to those destinations. Above is Tony Ray-Jones approach to photography tips, don’t take boring pictures being my favourite. Below is from his note-book.
“British characteristics and qualities.
Love of tradition
Shortly after moving to east London this year the book A Hoxton Childhood by A.S Jasper came my way from my cousin. At the time of reading I had moved to the area where the book is set, an area where my paternal side of the family were born and raised. I blogged back in May how the words in the post script really touched me.
“Be thankful that you were born now and not then. Go forward, but try to be tolerant of your parents along the way”. A.S Jasper.
This Wednesday my aunt and I listened to A.S Jaspers nephew, Richard Penny, read that exact sentence at the books official reissue in the Broadway Bookshop, along with A.S Jaspers son Terry. A cousin brought this book into my life, two cousins have met after researching their family tree and republished this historical document.
Living in the area, and being lucky enough to wander the streets with my Dad and hear his stories has meant the world to me this year. I walk down Crondall Street and laugh at dad telling me about the “Crondall crumpets” (it seems the girls living on this road were once quite up for it). My dad could run street tours on his life in Hoxton.
Until I persuade him to do this A Hoxton Childhood is a real east end family tale, where people still find something to laugh about when all seems hopeless and doomed, that stood by one another. Christmas is lurking fellow book worms, buy a copy for your families and heed those words I quoted above.