I’d agreed to meet a new client at their offices in London, and yesterday was the day. I left the house at 8am, and didn’t get back until after 9pm: seven hours’ working; six hours’ travelling, of which three was on the bike, and over an hour of that through Westminster and Oval. Today I feel like death.
The journey out wasn’t too bad, mostly because it was both cool and planned: I sailed into Oxford past the queues of traffic. Sometimes I feel like the Swinford toll bridge is basically an art installation: demonstrating all the multifarious ways in which people can make terrible decisions and then convince themselves the outcomes are someone else’s fault; leavened by the occasional bus and cyclist.
When I got to Paddington, I’d mapped out a route which took me through the leafiest, coolest bits of Hyde Park, and was able to get in the right lane at Westminster, which tends to move at less than 20mph at the best of times. This, I thought, was how Kentown might have worked out if they’d kept him on. It was only near Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens that all the various unhelpful diversions suddenly started to make me uncertain of how I was going to get to my destination. But I arrived there, in time to freshen up in the clients’ toilets (and buy a deodorant in the Tesco next door: when will I learn?)
After seven or so hours of intense business-socializing, though, I set off to essentially retrace my journey: unplanned. I therefore managed to hit diversion after diversion, unseen on the way out but all too obvious on the way back. There was little or no assistance or advice at the diversions—certainly none suitable for cyclists—and only the muggy, smoggy heat that characterizes Borisville for company. I got lost four or five times, and at one point whacked my knee on my bicycle frame, dismounting awkwardly to try to avoid street furniture.
By the time I arrived back at Paddington—and boarded the slow train by mistake—I was close to tears. Slough was scarcely the worst of it: by the end, I was wishing that friendly bombs might fall on Twyford, Langley and—the final kick in the teeth—the tiny station, darling, that we just simply had to visit at Culham. “No one left and no one came/ On the bare platform.” Slowly, I reached the haven of Oxford: a mere, dizzyingly low-bloodsugar pedal home to safety.
The thing about living on the A40 corridor is that it’s so convenient, of course. Anyone want to buy our house?