This week, we’re on London time. My brother Neil Young – solo dad in London and an influential cyclist in my life despite being on the other side of the world – takes over the blog to report on his cycling week. With bonus Sunday ride.
There’s a scene in The Wire in which detectives Bunk and McNulty investigate a cold murder scene, journeying from cluelessness to major breakthrough by way of variations on the word fuck. My morning ride today is peppered with similar expletive-variants, from bawdy bellow to mournful, slim-shanked parp, pipes and whistles in the sound. Auē. The roads. The berloody London roads. It’s really not worth writing about. In Burgess Park, a phalanx of guys on scooters flash past, like flying axe handles.
At 5:30pm a dullish light still remains. We’re almost through the winter tunnel. My otherwise uneventful ride home is interrupted by a slow leak in my rear tyre, swiftly fixed by Nip Nip at London Bridge. A solitary red crocus has appeared in my front garden. A little tail-light in the distance.
A no-ride day today as I’m working from home. But I do manage to finish amateurishly tinkering with a song I’ve been working on with my brother JP, called ‘We Ride On’.
A full two-rider. In the morning, due to circumstances entirely within my control, I am running late. Before setting off, I stalk the wild lands of the house like a silent and indefatigable character in a Cormac McCarthy novel, turning off lights that the kids have left on. As I pedal northwards, a tentative rain begins, gradually growing in conviction. On Rye Lane in Peckham, I stop next to a moustachioed cyclist wearing a magnificent rain cape, gently pattering in the rain. I wish I had one of those.
I take the C10 route, which prods like a pipecleaner through sooty back streets.
In the first incident, a van driver flings open his door with an expansive gesture, and I come juddering to an emergency stop. ‘Sorry, mate.’
In the second, a driver pulls alongside me and then drifts sideways, forcing me towards the kerb. I look across at him questioningly, but he stares fixedly ahead, like the stuffed walrus in the Horniman Museum.
In the third, a driver turns in front of me, even though I have right of way.
In the fourth, a van driver pulls across the cycleway on Blackfriars Road, then stops, while looking at his phone. I’m forced to jam on the brakes again and my crate slews to a halt. When I suggest he shouldn’t be looking at this phone, he looks up with total disinterest. ‘Shut your fucking mouth.’ He drives off, still looking at his phone.
The rain continues. On arriving at my office in Farringdon, I realise I’ve forgotten a spare pair of socks, but I have packed a spare set of underpants. All is not lost.
Riding home I detour to take the tail-end of the Waterlink Way, a fragile run of riverways from Greenwich to Beckenham. I hop over the main carriageway, then turn off onto a bumpy narrow path. A woman with two small dogs suddenly freezes in my headlight. ‘Jesus!’ she hisses. Soon I’m coasting along the riverside to the cicada-whir of my wheels.
A multi-modal day. After working at home, I take a mid-morning train with my bike, then cycle from London Bridge to Farringdon. I’ve dodged rush hour, so it’s a quiet ride around the Barbican; then a quick nip through Smithfield Market. At work, I help run a meeting for the Climate Crisis Advisory Group. The news isn’t good. In precise, emphatic tones, Professor Johan Rockström tells us about accelerated warming in the Arctic, about the unravelling jet stream, about the disintegrating Doomsday Glacier in Antarctica. Dr Fatima Denton describes the effects of climate change now being experienced across Africa. But there’s a glimmer of hope. All the problems related to climate change are solvable, she says.
I cycle the full stretch home with a helpful tailwind. It’s noticeably colder and I regret not having gloves. The papers warn that ‘the Beast from the East’ is stirring.
JP sends me a field recording of a rubber-band plunking on a lunchbox, captured in his kitchen in Wellington.
Once again I catch a lift on the train, cycling around Mayow Park to avoid car-crammed Sydenham High Street, before heading northwards on the Overground line. Nothing to report from this ride, apart from the preposterous sight of a woman with a very small head in a hulking black Range Rover. Would her vehicle be more acceptable if she had a larger head? I don’t think so, no. She catches me looking at her and seems to be gripped with a sudden paroxysm of rage, gesticulating silently through the thick dark windows.
Later, uneventfully home.
No ride today.
I tog up in my wetsuit and cycle to Beckenham Park Place for a swim in the lake. It’s cold, but a lot warmer than it was a few weeks ago. Silver fingerlets of water sneak into my gloves, around my toes, down the back of my neck. After a while, I get out and struggle for about five minutes to unpeel myself from the wetsuit. Then I realise I’ve forgotten my socks again. And my underpants.
Back home, JP’s plunking rubber-band triggers a short synthesiser sketch to see out the week.
Bloody hell, Neil, this was such a fun read. Both you and Ashleigh are so brave cycling in the city.
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This is so, so enjoyable. I only want to read things like this atm. Shut your fucking mouth hahaha
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Sent from my iPhone
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Loved this – a great read – my son cycles in London and I know his rides are similarly attuned to the f word and it’s many phraseal (not even sure that’s a word!) iterations.
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