Friday, October 27, 2006

Swimming to the Barbican

Firstly, happy birthday to me! It has been a lovely day so far, including lots of nice calls to friends and family - I miss you all, but I doubt I could have survived a repeat of the 2005 week-long LozFest celebrations so it is probably just as well to be having a quiet one.

Despite the fact that it is my birthday, a certain person has been nagging me, so following is an account of our exciting cycling adventure last weekend. Said cycling adventure being to Charterhouse Square, which is near the Barbican and which is where all my classes take place, with a view to assessing suitability of cycleway to said Square for commuter use.

To set the scene: bucketing rain. Imagine a tropical storm, but freezing. Perfect weather for a ride!

In theory, the ride in goes something like:

Pixieflat > Ladbroke Grove (the road not the "suburb", note that Ladbroke Grove actually goes up a slight incline of all things, hence "Notting Hill," which is a hill in about the same way as Cooks Hill) > Notting Hill Gate > Kensington Palace Gardens > Hyde Park (via "Rotten Row," a cute corruption of "Route du Roi", which goes beside the horseriding track) > Green Park > Buckingham Palace > the Mall > Trafalgar Square > whole mess of incredibly complicated backstreets around Covent Garden > Charterhouse Square. Following this map.

In actuality, a strange series of events and misturns resulted in our first attempt going along the lines of: Pixieflat > Ladbroke Grove (the road not the "suburb", note that Ladbroke Grove actually goes up a slight incline of all things, hence "Notting Hill," which is a hill in about the same way as Cooks Hill) > Notting Hill Gate > Kensington Palace Gardens > Notting Hill Gate > Kensington Palace Gardens. It is doubtful that this could be repeated under lab conditions. Suffice to say, if you find yourself on Bayswater Road you are NOT heading towards the CBD.

Our second attempt with much consulting of maps and minor screaming matches over directions (all of which in bucketing rain, with the map getting increasingly worse for wear) and an endless number of wrong-way streets which we blithely disregarded to the apparent confusion of some cab drivers went rather better and we did eventually end up in Charterhouse Square. Which looks like this:

(only without the snow, and with some medical students and squirrels hanging about, and noting that the dodgy seventies blocks in which my classes take place are sadly of of frame). Picturesque, isn't it?

However, on the way, we happened to ride past a rather interesting cadet/band function of some kind complete with marching and saluting and so on in the road between the Mall and Buckingham Palace, which is closed to traffic on Sundays. Pictures here. If we hadn't gotten incredibly lost on the first attempt we wouldn't have seen it, so I'm calling it serendipity.

We managed to get back home rather more quickly, but did cheat by using The Strand instead of the warren of backstreets. Much faster and far more exciting - harks back to fond memories of Sydney CBD lane-changing. Also rather more consistent with those annoying road rules about one way streets. I am absolutely going to take The Strand option in future, not least because it is nice to feel like one is on a monopoly board.

The whole trip was about 25km including detours, so I think the commute will be about 10km each way. I am not telling anyone how long it took, because we were lost, and it was raining, and it does not reflect our usual mad speeding skillz. It is an awesome commute though - quite the sightseeing trip. And pretty much dead flat in Sydney terms.

By the end we were both absolutely sodden and muddy, and our shoes took 5 days to dry IN AN AIRING CUPBOARD, and we were both so cold that the Pixieflat's soaring temperatures thanks to the Little Water Heater That Could were actually really welcome when we got home. But I think it will be doable for a little while yet, especially if I take a proper raincoat or implement some such equally practical stratagems.

Uni has been pretty fun this week, and I have been learning all sorts of crazy things I didn't know before, like the US law of misappropriation, which is fairly incomprehensible. Things are also hotting up, as I was downloading my readings for the trade marks course last night, and if I try to read it all I am going to run out of eyeballs. I will have to dust off my speedreading as well as my speedcycling, I think.

Historical fact: we have never been in Hyde Park without being rained on.


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