How to cause a sensation

1. Walk into a crowded, posh Notting Hill public house wearing your FLUORESCENT cycling jacket, your helmet tucked under your arm and your face red and sweaty from a five-mile cycle.

2. Push through the crowds looking for a seat. Be sure to take in the whole establishment so that every single punter can look at you at least once in that kind of up-and-down way that makes you feel oh-so comfortable and at ease and totally welcome – not.

3. Stand by the bar and take off your jacket to reveal the cosy BRIGHT RED fleece you’re wearing underneath while all the groovy fashionistas that comprise the Notting Hill set stare at you like you’re COMPLETELY NAKED!

4. Order a small beer and drink it with your two (non-cycling) companions. Then put the FLUORESCENT cycling jacket back on and wear it for a just a fraction longer than fashion dictates acceptable while you make your extended farewells.

5. Leave the same way you entered – and wait for the gossip to start as soon as you leave the building. Who knows, maybe it’ll start a new fashion trend! Hugh Grant would look pretty cute in a yellow cycling jacket, don’t you think?

The diary of a mad cyclist

I rode to work in the snow this morning. It was quite beautiful watching the crystal-white flakes falling through the bare-armed trees in the royal parks. And it was cooling to feel them landing on my ruddy out-of-breath face. Fortunately it wasn’t heavy enough to settle on the ground, but my colleagues were startled that I had ridden to work through such rotten weather.

“Are you mad?” one of them asked.

“Possibly,” I replied.

I think I’ve covered every kind of weather extreme lately.

Earlier this week it was god-awful winds that conspired to knock me off my bike. The term pedalling fast and getting nowhere never resonated more than it did on Monday morning!

And after months and months of very little rain (it sounds ridiculous but London is in the grips of a winter drought), I’ve put up with two mornings of miserable precipitation.

And it’s not just the sudden descent of wintry weather that has turned my fairly routine ride into a new challenge. Tonight I had my first driver honk his horn at me. Why? Because I was crossing lanes, giving plenty of warning I might add, but alas that wasn’t enough for Mr 4×4 who obviously thought I shouldn’t be on the road. Twat.

Then I had a gaggle of ducks (is that the right collective term?) block my route through Hyde Park. I kid you not. There were about 25 of the little buggers aimlessly waddling across the bike path like a troupe of small, misbehaving children. I had to cycle through them very carefully and very slowly, ringing my bell to get them out of the way. They ignored the bell. And they ignored my admonitions. “Bloody ducks!” I cried.

On Kensington High Street it was double-parking hour. Why do car drivers think that if they put their hazard lights on they can stop ANYWHERE? I hate double-parked vehicles because it means I have to move out into the normal flow of traffic. Tonight, as I trundled past one double-parked car (a gleaming white Mercedes), the driver’s door flew open unexpectedly and nearly knocked me off my bike.

Recovering from one near miss, I then rode through possibly the BIGGEST pothole in all of London and was surprised I didn’t lose a wheel.

Could things get any more dangerous? Well, yes, bumper to bumper traffic stretching all the way into Hammersmith. This kind of traffic is worse than the moving stuff. Cyclists end up carrying out stupid manoeuvres, weaving in and out of the gridlock, so you end up having to have eyes in the back of your head to watch out for bikes approaching from all
kinds of unexpected directions. And I’m not just talking about push-bikes. Those little f**kers on 125CC motorbikes are the worst of the lot.

I was relieved to get in the door in one piece. Tomorrow I’m catching the tube.

Summer must be on the way…

… because I now get to ride my bike home while it’s still light!

Tonight, as I trundled along Horse Guards Parade, forever known as the DARKEST STREET IN LONDON, I could see EVERYTHING around me. No peering into the blackness hoping there’s no puncture-inducing glass lying on the road or a pot-hole to catapult me over the handlebars. No keeping my fingers crossed that a pedestrian strolling along St James’s Park won’t suddenly step out onto the road without warning (believe me, they do this ALL the time). No clenching my buttocks every time a London cab goes whizzing past, leaving me two inches of road space.

How pleasant  it was to actually SEE the white gravelled parade grounds in front of Horse Guards. This elegant white building, where the Changing of the Guard takes place, looked all the more beautiful in the growing twilight, the sky turning a gorgeous duck-egg blue behind it.

By the time I’d got to Hyde Park twilight had turned to night, but it wasn’t the inky Dickensian blackness I’ve learnt to pedal through these past few months: the afterglow of the day’s sunshine was still tangible in the air. It felt good to cycle along a path that didn’t feel like something out of the 17th century – dark and dangerous.

How lovely it will be when I can ride home in full daylight. At this rate, it can’t be too far off. Roll on summer!