Wednesday, April 05, 2006

1st Bike Ride of 2006

It should be a truth universally acknowledged that a size eight woman is not necessarily fit. There are probably women five dress sizes bigger than me who are ten times fitter (or so it seems at least).

I readily agree to a bike ride today as I do believe we have to make the most of the sun while it lasts. My brain is working overtime to decide whether or not I can realistically point out I won't be up to much due to my really rather severe illness. In terms of regular exercise walking is about it and I haven't been on the bike (my mum's) since last summer. Having been back at school for a full half-term I guess my excuses would no longer wash. Hey-ho!

The cycle path is variously obstructed by pedestrians, who cannot hear me shouting 'excuse me, please' over the deafening roar of 6 lanes of traffic, incomplete sandbagged traffic signs, no less than four parked yellow contraptions complete with flashing lights announcing a lane closure and a red lorry reversing directly at me. Not to mention the usual tyre-busting debris. Glass. Stones. Shards of metal.

We swing off the A13 at Silvertown. Beckton to the east and Canning Town to the west. All industrial areas named after the men who first built the factories – rubber and gas respectively. Silvertown is home to Britain's first flyover and was spectacularly blown up in 1917 – 83 tons of TNT went up at Brunner, Mond & Co. Probably the best non-military light show the east of London has seen.

The smell of freshly baked bread follows us as we whizz (creak in my case) past the London City Metal depot and the Peacock Gym (infamous for its alleged links to the criminal underworld). Round the bend and we are in the docks – an odd, in-between world.

The small, squat houses opposite the Excel centre resemble nothing more than beach shacks. DLR stations rise futuristically into the sky. Trains pass. Buses. But no people, few cars. The old and the new; the strangely quiet.

We stumble across a blue sign for the Newham City Farm. Any possibility of pigs fills me with joy and we take a detour (longer than needed; we skid across the one apparent green patch of a housing estate and nearly get our heads taken off by a father and toddler bonding over golf; real clubs, yellow ball).

The pigs, unfortunately, will not pose as I want them to and the eggs are only for sale between 11am and 1pm. Still, it's a wonderful little place and entry is free. (Donations are welcome in the milk churn but I can't bloody find it). I'm all for city children working out where their meat comes from.

I have my first glimpse of City Airport and enter yet another time zone devoid of life. Empty roads, buildings and sky-bound train tracks.

I make it home but not without struggling for the last part of the return leg. I'm quite certain I won't be able to walk tomorrow. Skinny or not.

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