“And it’s six in the morning and, gave me no warning, I’m riding with Lady Luck, freeway cars and trucks/Stars beginning to fade, and I lead the parade/Just a-wishing I‘d stayed a little longer/Oh, Lord, let me tell you that the feeling’s getting stronger.”
But it was not six
in the morning for me, Tom, rather, it was mid-afternoon and I was riding my
bike. The rest, I dig. My feeling was getting stronger, too. I was on Grove End
Road after leaving that famous crossing
behind. My next destination? Camden Market.
At the point where
Grove End Road meets St John’s Wood Road, NW8 opens up. This avenue-wide yawn
provides much-welcomed extra space for cyclists. With Tom Waits’ piano-driven “Ol’ 55” riffing in my ears, I found
myself getting closer to another “Lord”, but of the cricket variety. Not the
ground where England had regained the Ashes a few days before playing against Australia
(that honour went to Trent Bridge, Nottingham) but still, a site where history had
been made before. The Lord’s Cricket Ground is the home of the sport that forms
the UK’s Holy Trinity along with rugby and, of course, football. Even for
people like me, who cannot play cricket, nor can understand the rules of the
sport, the symbolism of this venue is too huge to miss.
It is ironic to
think that the Ashes were born out of defeat. When the Australians crushed the English
team in 1882 at the Oval, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary
proclaiming that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia”.
I did not stay long
on St John’s Wood Road. The first exit at the roundbout led me towards Prince
Albert Road and consequently more shade. The summer sun was out in full swing and
the temperature had climbed up to the late 20s. I wanted to get to Camden before
evening time. The Regent’s Park was now on my right and so were London Zoo and
the Zoological Society of London, founded in 1826 and counting amongst its
members one Charles Darwin. Current luminaries include go-to nature documentary
presenter, Sir David Attenborough, perhaps one of the most, if not the most easily
recognisable face on British television in the last four or five decades.
Whilst this is a
post about my experience of cycling around London, I cannot get away from the
topic of animals in captivity. That is one of the reasons why I have never set
foot in the London Zoo or any other zoo for as long as I can remember. I understand
that the nature of keeping animals in enclosures has changed drastically. I also
understand that certain species would have disappeared had zoological societies
not intervened in time. Furthermore, zoos have also adopted an educational
approach which includes reaching out to schools and other institutions.
There was a long queue
outside the London Zoo which made me stop for a moment and mentally flip a
coin. What if it was the other around? Tigers lining with their cubs,
crocodiles with their short-tailed babies and skunks with their magpie-coloured
offspring to see us, humans, in cages?
internally, a long, silent and throaty laugh and carried on towards a real
human zoo: Camden Market. In my head Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55” kept riffing: “And my
time went so quickly, I went lickety-splickly out to my Ol’ 55/as I pulled away
slowly, feeling so holy, God knows, I was feeling alive”.
Next Post: “Saturday
Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 23rd
January at 6pm (GMT)