After my stop at Arsenal’s football headquarters, the Emirates, I headed off towards Angel Islington. At the end of the speed-bump-filled Drayton Park, I was greeted by the A1’s last urban transmutation: Holloway Road. This is a long thoroughfare that runs from the North Circular or A406 to the Angel. To drive, walk or cycle on it, is to become acquainted with some of London’s landmarks, such as HM prison Holloway and London Metropolitan University. In its one-hundred-and-sixty-four-year-old existence the former has served as residence to one Emily Wilding Davison, of the suffragettes’ movement and infamous Myra Hindley, the notorious Moors murderer along with her boyfriend Ian Brady. The latter has counted amongst its famous alumni, one-half of Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant and feminist Julie Bindel. Law enforcement and education sitting almost side by side. I could not help thinking, as I crossed over to Palmer Place that more investment in the latter would probably mean making less use of the former.
My thoughts were
still on London Met and its former student luminaries when my tarmac-licking
two-wheeler turned left on to Liverpool Road. Current Labour leader Jeremy Corby went there,
although back then it was still being known for its former title, University
of North London or North London Polytechnic. At the time of cycling from White
Hart Lane to Stamford Bridge, Labour had yet to elect a new leader. The party
was still in disarray over a disastrous general election and on a
soul-searching mission. When I sat down to revise this post a few weeks ago, the British
Parliament had just been asked to vote on the decision to bomb Syria. It had pitted
Arsenal-supporting now-party-leader Jeremy Corbyn versus Spurs-loving Hilary
Benn. Suddenly English football-s fiercest rivalry (think Yankees against
Boston Red Sox in baseball) had taken on a different meaning. To add to the
irony (or the sadness of it if you are a left-wing Labour voter), Arsenal’s nickname
is the “Gunners”. Its crest has the image of a cannon on it. A peace-loving
party leader, who supports a team that has a weapon of war as a logo, votes not
to drop bombs on innocent civilians. Opposing him, but still in the same party,
is a dick. Sorry, a cock. Apologies, a cockerel-sporting Member of Parliament.
The Spurs crest is that of a rooster.
Another thought that
assailed me as I biked on Liverpool Road, Angel-Islington- bound, came after
observing my fellow cyclists. I had noticed a change in this now, very
up-to-date bicycle-themed London landscape after I set off from Bill Nicholson
Way. At first, there were barely other cycles on the road. The majority were
pavement-riding, law-breaking, hoodie-wearing youngsters (and a few adults,
too). Mudguard-free and thick-tired, most of these bicycles looked as if they
were mainly being used to get from A to B.
The scenery changed
as soon as I got to Stamford Hill. Here were the first fixies, which even the beard-boasting
Haredi were riding. I noticed also an increase in bicycles with dropped bars with
their customary Lycra-wearing proprietors. However, it was on Brownswood Road
where the bike traffic increased ten-fold. Here were pricey Bromptons, dreamy,
adventure-inspiring Lunas and steel-frame Noodles. As I came closer to the
Angel, these classy-looking, expensive cycles were joined by Boris self-service,
Santander-sponsored bikes. These bikes (except for Boris ones) were not just means of transportation to get
someone from A to B. These were statements. Purchasing power statements. Fashion
statements. Neighbourhood statements. What I discovered as I continued my
journey towards the Thames was that London had not only become a more
cycle-friendly city but also a place where the type of bike one had probably said
as much about the owner as a car did.
I stopped for a few
minutes outside the restaurant that has become my favourite eaterie in the
capital. The Indian Vegetarian Restaurant on Chapel Market is a cheap buffet outlet
with a friendly staff, a cozy and intimate atmosphere.
After this small
detour I resumed my journey westwards. At the traffic lights at Angel Islington, I went straight ahead
on to St John Street and turned right on to Roseberry Avenue where one of London’s
two dance hubs is situated: Sadler’s Wells (the other one is The Place in Euston). I knew
Farringdon Road was not far and with it, the Thames.
Next Post: “London,
my London”, to be published on Thursday 18th February at 6pm