London has always been a big, scary, occasionally (but not often) exciting place to me and I seldom went there. Now I was working in London there was the possibility of doing stuff at lunchtimes. At first this was limited to stuff within 15 minutes walk of the office as the time to get to the station, down to the Tube, to another station and back to street level was prohibitive during my lunch hour. Along comes the bike and the number of places I can get to within 15 minutes ride of the office is much larger!
This didn’t happen immediately. As I’ve mentioned before, though I quickly discovered a love of cycling, I was very apprehensive of doing so in London and convinced at every turn that I would become helplessly lost. I went for a ride around the corner one day and sat next to my bike eating my sandwiches. Another day I rode to St Pancras station and spent twenty minutes walking around looking for a bike rack before giving up and heading back to the office for lunch.
Then my other half needed work shirts and wanted me with him to help decide. He pointed out that Cheapside was not only 15 minutes’ ride from my office but also 15 minutes’ walk from his, plus I knew how to get there as it was on my London Bridge route, so we met up there. We chose some work shirts for him, bought sandwiches to eat together then headed back to our offices. It was lovely! it was something that I had never done before, meeting up with someone for lunch during a work day. We didn’t make a habit of it but we did meet up again a few times, sometimes to try on suits, sometimes just to eat sushi together.
A friend of mine works near Russell Square. This is again somewhere I regularly cycled past so one day we agreed to meet up near there for sushi (what can I say? I love the stuff!). This was where I had my first accident. Not with a Taxi (I always thought it would be) or even with a car, bus or truck.
I indicated and turned left off the main road. I looked around me, there was a little traffic coming towards me; a couple of parked cars; two men around a metre away from the curb, chatting before they crossed the road. I glanced behind me to check for traffic about to overtake and when I looked back one of the men had started crossing the road! I braked hard and shed most of my speed but what stopped me in the end was him grabbing my handlebars so I didn’t knock him over. I fell off, obviously, but he was fine. I suffered slight bruising to my pride, a nasty case of confusion about why he had decided to step out then when he’d had plenty of time to see me and I was late meeting up with my friend, but it was a nice, gentle introduction to falling off a bike.
But these were all safe journeys to places I knew fairly well by that time. The real test came when I bought my partner a day long photography course for his birthday and he wanted me to be there. I wasn’t able to take time off work so we decided I could head over in my lunch break to spend a bit of time with him. I did my research, looked at the route, printed it off, got a little lost in both directions but generally had a lovely ride there, spent some quality time enjoying his birthday present with him then a similarly relaxing ride back to the office.
The world was my oyster, or at least London was, right up until I had to hand my bike back for repair…