a lung full of detour

I can taste the City in my mouth, it’s gritty as well as tasting of fuel (a non-specific: diesel/petrol mix). It’s taking longer to navigate home too. London seems to have turned overnight into one big building site / road work, at every turn there’s a road block requiring a diverting turn. I just want to get home! It’s been one of those days but in a conscious effort to not instantly categorise bad stuff as bad I’m looking for the positives.

They’re not that hard to find as I am forced to explore the back streets behind and around Westminster Abbey, Tufton street and others that I don’t quite turn up have curious shop fronts or just mysterious doors that look like they were last opened in Dickensian times. These dark little streets, even the more grandly titled Great Smith St. were not made for the growling, choking traffic that is squeezing down them like angry toothpaste, threatening to squash the traffic jam cheating cyclists that swarm between the opposing lines of traffic.

These discoveries have changed my commute into one more interesting than the norm, nevertheless I am relieved to turn back onto Millbank, even its bludgeoning crosswind/headwind punch that always hits me as I cross the roundabout at Lambeth Bridge, at last heading homeward. Back on track and buzzing along (that’s my mudguard rubbing on my rear wheel), (it’s my commuting bike – mudguards are allowed) but the campaign to dig up all of London’s roads has another diversions store for me. The tail end of the Kings Road as it heads out to Putney via Parsons Green is closed so I have to take the next left, onto the Fulham Road, past Stamford Bridge,via Fulham Broadway before I meet my usual commute at Putney.

Fulham is less than 5 miles from home but I don’t know it well. I’ve only really known it through the eyes of a drunken twenty-something, late at night, but I could even be mistaking it for Clapham as I navigate a series of blurred flashbacks and artificially created memories. Fulham is an enticing mix of Poundland and the bohemian, expensive looking housing in close proximity to the high street action. You don’t need to venture far from home in Fulham to have fun and/or spend money. I don’t know why I didn’t live here in that twenty-something era. Maybe it was the limited transport links which mattered when I didn’t cycle to work. Conclusion: life could be more fun with a bicycle.

a dangerous world

It’s easy to forget where you are. I’m cycling along the Embankment, past some of London’s – no, some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. The London Eye to my right. Check. Whitehall on my left. Check. Don’t forget the River Thames. The Houses of Parliament are up ahead, near submerged under crowds of tourists, I barely notice the grand, ornate palace. On semi-auto pilot I charge pass Westminster Cathedral on my way home, trying not to snag a selfie taking tourist. I have to remind myself: I’m fortunate, privileged to be riding these roads.

OK. Not as fortunate or privileged as the Lords and Ladies and Right Honourables inside the Houses of Parliament, as I head home they are probably heading to their heavily subsidised bar. David Cameron probably wouldn’t mind heading home too (and not coming back). He’s said this is his final term but he increasingly looks like someone who wouldn’t mind calling time early. If he’s not being accused of doing something beastly with a pigs head he’s being shamed as tax dodging hypocrite, his dead father’s name dragged through the mud to add to his mire. He gives the impression of a man waiting to cash in his pension and put his feet up (on a private jet whilst touring the lucrative US lecture circuit like his illustrious predecessor: A. Blair).

Dave seemed to lose his mojo when five years after telling us that we should all hug a hoodie it all kicked off during the UK riots in 2011. What he saw during the riots appeared to truly confound him. He couldn’t reconcile the images of the anarchy on the streets with his closeted perception of an honest, decent, patriotic, Victorian-esque society. His sheltered idealism was shattered along with shop windows, his naïve idealism burnt to ashes on the streets.

His privileged forbears would have told him that of course the peasants are revolting. From then on, disillusioned he just seemed to give up, merely going through the motions ever since. Invisible even as his would be successors, George and Boris jostle for the limelight. Even when gifted with Miliband and then Corbyn he’s still not performed. Perhaps he needed a strong rival to shake out his competitive side, a strong rival to motivate him. He’s no Ali but he never faced a Frazier or a Foreman either.

He looks tired. Clock watching. Except sometimes, something stirs, the mask slips, revealing a Tom Brown’s School Day’s Flashman-esque bully, snide, tetchy. Ironically this attitude might have served him better from day one, given him a bit of edge, roughened up his posh blandness, ruffled a few feathers and earned him some respect from the average man on the street who thinks he’s a cartoon cut out bland toff.

Instead, we’ve got a lame duck Prime Minister, like a second term US President. Actually America has one of those too. Significant World Leaders, limply shuffling to the stage exit. It’s dangerous times for the world and dangerous for me as inch across the roundabout at Lambeth Bridge.