Thursday 23 February 2012

#Once upon a time - Riding My Bicycle

Once upon a time .....

I rode my bicycle every where. To work. To college. And down to the local high street. For two whole years, I cycled the length and breadth of West London. Then Little A arrived and I haven't cycled since.

My two wheeled friend transported me on adventures through quiet backstreets and passed homes I could only ever dream of living in.

I loved my blue bike. I named him Malcolm.

I had all the gear; a helmet, waterproofs, gloves, cycling shoes and clothing for all seasons. I even had special anti puncture tyres; who wants to get a flat tyre in the dark unfriendliness of a cold London night?

Malcolm had two pannier bags, affectionately known as the paninis, that attached on a rail at the back, housing my clothes and hurriedly made packed lunches.

The route to work and college was pretty much the same but I loved that forty minute ride.

It took me down Uxbridge Road passed Halal and Polish delicatessens, and commuters bonded unwillingly together on packed, bendy buses. Then into the urban smells of Shepherds Bush, passed the Westfield Centre, and onto the quiet winding streets of Notting Hill. Who lives in these white mansions? I wonder how much THAT one is going for? What are those builders doing?

I once spotted Will Young walking a very tiny toy dog.

Everyday I relished biking up a particularly steep hill. The last few feet, I always had to stand up in the saddle and will my perspiring self to the summit. The top met a junction where I turned left to be rewarded by a peddle free slow descent around a meandering crescent, which, after a few hundred yards, met the rush hour traffic charging up and down Ladbroke Grove. Then through the early morning clanging and buzz of market stalls on Portobello Road, and onto Westbourne Grove, flanked by its designer boutiques and mouth watering eateries. Yotam Ottolenghi has a terrific cake shop there; the passion fruit meringue pies are unbridled bliss.

On to Paddington, where Malcolm and I ducked and dived through grimy car fumes, whilst angrily belling at yawning pedestrians with heads buried in newspapers, and eyes glued to android phones. It's funny how pedestrians can't stand car drivers and car drivers hate pedestrians. Well cyclists loathe all of the above and especially black cabs, who are the most inconsiderate of the lot!

If I was travelling to work, my journey continued onwards over Edgware Road ending in Marlebone. If I was on a mission to college, my journey terminated by the quiet canal side of Little Venice with its moored barges and chatting ducks.   

What I loved about cycling was the freedom to roam and discover. I savoured the muscular strength of my thighs and calves, and the air pressing upon my face, clearing my nostrils, before diving into oxygen hungry lungs. I became very fit and toned; my derriere has never looked so good.

I loved watching life go by; dog walkers struggling with yappy canines on muddled leads, street sweepers brushing away the daily detritus, lovers arguing, children walking hand in hand, buggies laden with shopping, and mothers chaperoning miniature ghouls and witches on Halloween.

But most of all I loved observing the passing of the seasons. There was nothing more exhilarating or life affirming than the sharp iciness of wintry rain splashing against my cheeks. Or the weight of a summers down pour upon my shoulders whilst sloshing through giant puddles. Or cycling through the leafy beauty of orange, red and yellow confetti gently floating in the weakened rays of an autumnal sun. Or watching the first shoots unfold, and blossom dancing in the fizzy atmosphere of a spring evening.

I will never forget one frosty December evening. I was cycling home from college. It was about 10.30 pm. The sky was totally clear. Stars winked and the moons muted light shone on the chilly roof tops of Notting Hill homes. I was about to cycle down that very steep hill but stopped to take in the view. West London quietly sparkled in the distance. Not a sound stirred. No cars or the sing song of alcohol influenced babble to pollute the silence. Nothing. All that could be heard was my breath and a whisper of a breeze that made silhouetted branches timidly creak. It was just me, Malcolm and the world beyond us. There was something so grounding, so solid about the stillness of that winter's night. Pure magic.

And now .... Malcolm is sadly rusting under a plastic sheet outside my flat. All my gear has been stuffed unceremoniously in one of the paninis in the loft.

I think it high time to resurrect my ailing bike.

Time to take to the roads once more.

So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humourous tale. The skies the limit. I've decided to turn this into a monthly meme blog hop thing. So do Link up below and grab the badge code ...

Once Upon A Time

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