The Cycle Home

The mottled concrete is only just drying up from the last downpour. The grey sky still matches the ground, promising an encore. I’m chancing it today, but my hoodie will save me if I’m wrong.  I evaded the rain on the way here and if I can escape it on the way back, then I will have defied BBC weather again!

I skim past the queue of shiny black taxis and red buses at the lights, scraping round the corner just as they turn green, leaving those slow beasts groaning under the weight of tourists and commuters. Crossing Waterloo Bridge, I look at the familiar grey river and familiar grey buildings. London really knows how to colour co-ordinate! I chuckle to myself as I notice that my grey hoodie and grey leggings blend me into the background. The wind whips up my hair and I realise I’ve been going dangerously fast for someone not wearing a helmet. But after sitting in class for two hours, I’m now bursting with energy.

In no time I’m racing lorries and dodging potholes along the Old Kent Road.  I know the sequence of shops along each side well. The Nigerian solicitor just before Mandela Way. The charity shop with the same cheap, sparkly dress that’s been in the window for a year, which clearly nobody wants. The Bolivian restaurant which is never open. The Western Union, the Chinese chemist, the Halal butchers and the café which, come rain, come shine, ALWAYS has middle-eastern looking men idling on chairs outside.

Finally I reach the park shortcut and I breathe a deep, clean, sigh of relief and enjoy the leafy green respite. All too soon it’s over and I exit onto Peckham Rye, affectionately known as little Lagos. The sounds of fresh African beats greet me from the small CD stall on the corner. I weave around the people who still haven’t realised this is a cycle path, ringing my bell, to no avail. Hundreds of plastic heads stare out from the wig shops with brightly coloured hair. The smell of stale fish lingers in the air. The queue of people stagnating at the bus stop watch me curiously as I pass them by.

The first few tiny sparks of rain land on my face.  Up goes my hood. A shadow pulls up beside me and says in a thick Dutch accent ‘we don’t have this type of traffic in the Netherlands, but it’s fun weaving in and out of the cars!’  ‘Well, it is rush hour’, I respond with a smile, as we both cruise down the empty bus lane.

A cyclist ahead struggles up the hill with his huge backpack. I pass him at the top of the hill, but we both get caught at the next set of lights. Puffing and panting he says ‘you caught up with me!’  His Spanish accent giving away his heritage. The rain always seems to spark conversations from other cyclists. Perhaps because we feel united by our exposure to the elements and the added danger of cycling on wet roads. ‘Buen Viaje!’ (safe journey) he shouts as I zoom off down the road, now glossy with moisture. BBC weather might have won this time, but only by a matter of 10 minutes!

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