Tag Archives: london

Bike back

11 Jun

In an earlier post I alluded to an unfortunate biking incident in Milton Keynes which has made me apprehensive of my new bike.

I was talked into getting the bike in the first place by my boyfriend who is a cycling fiend.

He had found this great social enterprise scheme in London where I could buy a bike, and in doing so help homeless people gain the skills and experience they need to go on to work as bike mechanics.

It’s a brilliant little set up which supports, skills and provides references for people who would otherwise have no chance of getting a job.

So, ignoring the fact I hadn’t ridden a bike for approximately 15 years, I bought one. Then realised we were in Bow and we needed to get back to Chelsea.

After point blank refusing to cycle across central London I was coaxed into taking a circuitous route, involving an overland train journey.

The next day we took the bikes out to Richmond Park and had the most amazing morning with the deer, the grass all frosty and the sun shining. I was getting to enjoy this cycling lark.

So much so that I agreed to cycle through central London – Sloane Square, Marble Arch, The Mall, Euston – the following morning (a Saturday), on the condition we got up at 6.30am and were cycling on hopefully empty roads by 7am.

The plan went like clockwork and we arrived at Euston to take a train to Milton Keynes to visit our friend Ash who had been exiled there for a year.

Ash said one of Milton Keyne’s few selling points was its miles of bike lanes, totally separate from the traffic.

What could possibly go wrong?

A wet leaf, that’s what. A sharp turn, a slight down hill stretch and a slippery bit of foliage and I came a cropper in a spectacular lycra-ripping, knee-grazing, tear-inducing fashion.

After patching me up we went to the pub and played Scrabble.

Since then I’ve been scared of the bike, but I can’t leave it rotting in the garage – it would be such a waste.

So a few weeks back on a bank holiday Monday when the roads were empty I took it out for a tentative one mile test run.

I didn’t die, but I did wobble quite a lot.

A few more test rides have followed, each with their own little pleasures such as realising my leggings had a hole in the bum and the chain falling off when I attempted to change gears while peddaling up hill, and my confidence has built.

So today the sun was shining and I went for a six mile spin to the park, around the lake and back. For the first time I enjoyed it.

I found that unlike running, cycling isn’t a constant battle to keep going thanks to the occasional blessed down hill bits, which meant I had a moment to let my thoughts wander and enjoy the day.

The hills still hurt though, and by the time I got back my legs were like jelly – but I took that as a sign they’d been working hard. Better still, it gave my joints a day off from running.


Primrose Hill

6 Jun

My Juneathon tour of London continued on Sunday, taking me to Primrose Hill.

There was no point trying to celeb spot – apparently Kate, Sadie, Sienna and Jude are all long gone – and besides it was pouring down with rain and very unglam on a Sunday night.

My boyfriend was insistent we did our Juneathon duty and wouldn’t be persuaded that a few sit ups in the living room would be sufficient, so off we went.

Primrose Hill is, as the name suggests, a hill so he ran up it and I huffed and puffed along behind. I’d spent the afternoon in the pub and wasn’t sure I should be running after polishing off a gin and tonic and a couple of glasses of wine. Don’t drink and run kids.

Anyway, what with the hill, the rain and the booze it was all a bit of slog, with the only highlight boyfriend’s attempt to kiss me while on the run. No tongues, obviously.

Distance: 2 miles
Time: 0:20:00
Pace: 10:00

The world’s most expensive gym

6 Jun

My best friend lives in Chelsea and is a member of the Fullham Road branch of Virgin Active – the most expensive gym in the world*.

She claims to have got an introductory deal bargain and says she’s only doing it for three months in the run up to a holiday, but nonetheless regular membership costs an eye-watering, heart palpitating £1,200 a year. Maybe part of the work out is the increased heart rate as you part with that kind of cash?

On Saturday she signed me in as a guest, giving me a glimpse of the rarefied world of the Chelsea set as they work up a sweat.

“You won’t believe the number of YSL gym bags you see in the locker room,” she told me as we walked there.

At that moment a man with a large, live blue parrot on his arm (not stuffed this time – that was last week) passed us before turning into a smart town house.

“That man’s got a big blue parrot,” I stated.

She looked at me, clearly wondering if I could still be drunk from the night before.

To prove the point I insisted on breaking into a run so she could get a better view. This achieved, she had to admit that he did indeed have a big blue parrot on his arm and that I was sober.

Dazzled by the knowledge I was now in a part of town where distinguished looking 60-something gentlemen own exotic pets, I began to imagine what extravagances the world’s most expensive gym would indulge in.

On arrival I was disappointed to note a distinct lack of diamond encrusted trainers and gold-plated water bottles.

That said it didn’t take me long to realise that this gym was different.

If I were a single female looking for a rich hubbie to fund my ladies that lunch lifestyle I’d sign up immediately. It’s a would-be banker’s wife’s paradise.

The main gym is full of men, without doubt they all work in the city. I think you can probably taste the testosterone in there.

As we aren’t in the market for a Gordon Gekko we opted for the ladies only gym, and were greeted by the sight as a statuesque blonde model holding an arabesque pose standing on one leg and admiring herself in the mirror.

There’s clearly an under size 14 rule in operation as everyone in there was toned, tanned and owned thighs that didn’t touch when they put their feet together.

We had a good bash at 20 minutes of interval training to get the heart rate up, a bit of boring cross training and then we went to play on all of the exciting expensive equipment my gym doesn’t have.

The powerplate had me in fits of giggles, I felt like a turkey wobble personified. How on earth is that supposed to help you get fit? Perhaps the mortifying sensation of feeling your excess pounds wibbling for all to see reinforces the desire to lose them?

When I got off a Swedish goddess got on and did a complicated medicine ball twist sit-ups routine while balancing on the powerplate. It was impressive, but it did cross my mind that it must have taken weeks to master, and perhaps there are more important things in life. Then it crossed my mind I was just jealous.

Of course I’m being completely unfair – I’m sure there are lots of pretty toyboys and inspiring women of independent means who work out there too – not least my wonderful BFF – but it’s still the best people-watching work out I’ve ever had, even if no-one spritzed my face with mineral water or mopped my brow with a cashmere towel while I was on the rower.

*This may not be true.

Skylon, history and hangovers

25 Jan

Running was not on the agenda yesterday, not even slightly.

Boyfriend and I had been celebrating the night before and, truth be told, had become intoxicated.

If it’s any consolation as I sipped my fresh grape and ginger muddled martini shaken with vodka, Manzana verde, fresh lime and apple juice in Skylon overlooking the Thames on the South Bank I did think of Janathon.

Unfortunately not in a “I’ve got to run tomorrow, so this is the last cocktail” way, but instead I was trying to remember exactly what Highway Kind wrote in his fascinating blog post about the Skylon art installation, the Festival of Britain and Winston Churchill.

So Sunday arrived along with my hangover and other half wasn’t looking lively either, but because Janathon waits for no man we got the Walking London book out and set off to explore Chelsea.

He lives there at the moment, but this is a short-term arrangement, so it seemed like a good opportunity to explore Chelsea’s nooks and crannies before he moves on.

The three mile walk started in Sloane Square and looped around past the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where we saw several smart-looking Chelsea Pensioners going about their business, down to Battersea Bridge, along the embankment and then wound back to the King’s Road.

I’d forgotten how densely packed the history of the city is – we could barely move for blue plaques and statues.

Highlights of the walk included the home of one of my favourite novelists George Eliot, the church of critic of Henry VIII and devout Catholic Thomas Moore and the site of his former residence Crosby Hall (anyone who read and loved Wolf Hall will understand why this is so exciting) and the Japanese Cherry Tree in Roper’s Garden dedicated to Koizumi Gunji, who the plaque informed me was the father of British Judo. How Janathon.

The Chelsea Physic garden is every inch the Secret Garden, tucked away behind high walls among the mews, but still plays a role today in modern medical and botanical research. It was created in 1673 by Sir Hans Sloane and the Society of Apothecaries. Sir Hans wasn’t a bad advert for his herbal remedies – he died at the ripe old age of 92, which must have been something of a medical marvel in 1753.

We stopped also to contemplate the idea of Margaret Damer Dawson, a founder of the Women Police Volunteers, a female task force created in 1914 to control the behaviour of young women.

Cheyne Walk had the most varied and impressive claims to fame – you can read some of them here – but King’s Road takes the biscuit in the sheer extravagance stakes. It sounds obvious now I type it, but it was initially only the King’s Road – no plebs allowed – and acted as a means for the royals to drive to Kew without having any upsetting encounters with the great unwashed until 1830.

So to recap: Three miles, dozens of pub quiz facts and zero raindrops – I declare Sunday a success.

Social climber

24 Jan

Wouldn’t it be dull if Janathon was just about running? Why not train all your muscles to do one thing and then just as they get the hang of it, take them climbing?

You see other half is a keen climber and he’s convinced that I have it in me to scale Everest too.

And so it came to pass that we spent Saturday at The Castle, an indoor climbing wall in Manor House.

Wisely, he had invited a fellow spiderman to partner up with (the prospect of winching me up a wall on a rope, sapping all of his bodily might in the process, wasn’t alluring strangely) which meant I got to climb with other sensible friends who have a better grasp of concepts such as pain and fear.

There were seven of us altogether which meant I had plenty of time to catch up with friends, while preventing them falling to their certain deaths with my expert belaying.

One of the other novices had spent the previous Saturday at the wall taking part in a five hour introduction to climbing course – a Christmas gift from his girlfriend. 

“I’m a broken man” were his words the next day.

I sympathise as I woke on Sunday feeling as if I’d slept with a wire coathanger across my shoulders.

Clearly running all the time does focus on certain muscles, so I suppose there is something to be said for giving all the others a workout. And I mean all of them, even my fingers.

I’m sure it has helped my flexibility, although the only cardio was my heart hammering with fear as I looked down to see the ground 20 feet away.

Girl power

23 Jan

Freezing fog? Check.
Late evening start? Check.
Achey foot? Check.
Motivation shortage? Check. Check. Check.

In the light of that list, a later than planned finish at the office and the small matter of fitting in an eye test, buying a gift for the other half and finding a dress to wear for the weekend between said late finish and running date it wasn’t looking like I’d be doing more than a jog round the block.


John Lewis, ever reliable source of presents didn’t fail me, eye test was the fastest ever and dress was in the window of the second shop I passed and fitted like a glove. 

Laden with shopping and sports kit I emerged from what was by now thick fog to arrive on the doorstep of my running buddy Janine’s flat at 7pm. 

I wasn’t convinced we were going to get out, but we had a date with  the other member of our running trio @Lyndsay_young so we waited to see if she’d show, both secretly hoping she wouldn’t.

The problem is, to quote Lyndsay herself, she is “just stubborn” and plays roller derby – possibly the scariest sport I’ve ever watched – so despite being held up in work she arrived wrapped up and ready to go some time before 8pm.

It had been so misty and foggy for the past 24 hours that when someone was shot dead in Merseyside last night before our frontpage headline was the rather Dickensian: “Murder in the mist”. In the interim the weather had worsened.

Unperturbed we left, shivering, and made for the waterfront where the fog was thickest. 

Starting at the Echo arena we ran to Coburg dock and back all the way to the furthest end of the Albert Dock, three times.

And we did run because it was FREEZING and the air was damp, leaving my hair crunchy with frost afterwards.

As three Lycra-clad lovelies there was also the now inevitable pleasure of a car-load of leering males slowing down to offer helpful words of advice on breathing technique and stretching. And to ogle Janine’s very long legs and Lyndsay’s roller derby toned physique.

Apart from that the only other noise was that of the fog warning bell – or at least I assume that’s what the noise was. I know nothing about shipping, but it sounded off shore somewhere.

I’ve never run in such utterly miserable conditions and yet thanks to the other girls I not only got out and enjoyed it, I ran my longest distance of the week – I think between six and seven miles.

Afterwards we stretched for ages, until we had to eventually accept we were all going to be sore in the morning and give it up. I have no idea how long we were out for and I’m not sure exactly how many miles we covered, but it was certainly the most as a trio.

Of course left to my own devices I’d have spent the evening on the sofa catching up with everything – but that’s the beauty of having a pair of running buddies to keep you on straight and narrow.

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