Wednesday 12 February 2020

Urban Diary

The low winter clouds leave Farringdon Road decked in grey, but if you want to find dullness here you will fail. The Deliveroo and Übereats cyclists put paid to that. The way they spread evenly on Blackfriars Bridge (both on the foot traffic side and the A201 road), hogging almost every single space available, is a sight to marvel at. That is, if, unlike me, you’re cycling yourself. Then, the view, far from enjoyable becomes bothersome.

Although busy and noisy, the bridge today is a far cry from the time when the Blackfriars Monastery was located on the riverside. It was there that the “Black Parliament” met a few years before the start of the Wars of the Roses. Today, no one carries the white rose of York, or its red counterpart from Lancaster as they cross the Thames, but we still fight over the equivalent of the English throne in the 15th century: space.

You notice it in our postures: heads bent down, taut, veiny necks shooting forwards, muscles tensed up, our bodies and bicycles poised over the bridge like human daggers. Clicks, clacks and clatter signal gear changes. A symphony of bells betray the presence of a distracted pedestrian walking into the cycle lane. In the distance, St Paul’s Cathedral stands majestically amidst the architectural Johnny-come-latelys: the Shard, the Grater and the Gherkin.

Meanwhile on Blackfriars Road, the Deliveroo and Übereats cyclists move with the grace of birds. Tilting from left to right and viceversa, they zero in on whatever little space is available, attack it, conquer it and leave it for the next one; the wind (or lack thereof) acting like a loose rudder. The effect is a “now you see them, now you don’t”. And you would marvel at their efficiency. Of course, you would. That is, if you weren’t a cyclist. In which case, you would probably carry a rose in your pocket. The colour would be up to you.

© 2020


  1. I suspect this slow and sometimes wobby pedestrian would feel threatened. With reason.
    Love your prose.

  2. We have similar delivery riders here. They seem so skilled at getting about without fuss. They are never predictable, but you don't have to as they know what they are doing. However, I can imagine they really annoy commuting cyclists at times, but then it would not be nearly as bad as how pedestrians stray into cycle lanes.

  3. I seldom encounter these modern-day incarnations of Hermes and Mercury and Hermóðr, but occasionally see them tearing up the roadways on television. I think they are quite entertaining when viewed from a comfy chair in my home, but probably would find them an annoyance should they be part of my daily routine.

    My first inclination would be to wear a rose when crossing your bridge. Its color would be purple, as it is the color of the Minnesota Vikings football team and the color of enchantment and mystery, and I am a fan of all these things.

    An enjoyable post, CiL ....

  4. Your writing always paints such vivid mind pictures. Thanks.

  5. I´m a pedestrian. A cyclist at times, or a car driver. I understand each one, yet... ring at me, by golly! I drive a bike at times myself, I will not suddenly jump in front of you - yet.. how are you supposed to know? I understand. And you go on my nerves ;-)
    I can hear you driving up to me. And if I was deaf what good would ringing at me be? Alas, it´s a tricky world!

    The Gherkin???

    Oh, back to the roses, or... is that a good idea?

  6. Yes, we have our GrabFood and Food Panda cyclists here too and I supposed it is more chaotic here than in your London. :)
    Enjoyed your delightful post.

  7. Lovely post..Great read..
    And..the previous one..Loved it...
    I'm afraid l don't do bicycles or cities
    for that matter..Only been to London 6
    times in my whole life, and 3 of those was
    on a school trip with my daughter..! :).

    But, l know all there is to know about Blackfriars
    Bridge..Oh! Yes!
    The bridge attracted some international attention in June 1982,
    when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy's
    largest private bank, was found hanging from one of its arches
    with five bricks and around $14,000 in three different currencies
    in his pockets...Calvi's death was initially treated as suicide,
    but he was on the run from Italy accused of embezzlement and in
    2002 forensic experts concluded that he had been murdered by the
    Mafia, to whom he was indebted. In 2005, five suspected members of
    the Mafia were tried in a Rome court for Calvi's murder, but all
    were acquitted in June 2007 for lack of evidence...!
    ✨ 🎼✨🎶 ✨ 🎼✨🎶 ✨ 🎼✨🎶 ✨ 🎼✨🎶 ✨ 🎼✨🎶✨ 🎼

  8. Haha, sounds really amusing to me...but then, living out here in the "sticks", cyclists are something of a rarity! My other half is the only one I know!!
    Oh I'd love to see for myself this picture you so vividly paint here with your words...and I think I'd avoid sporting a rose at all. Would be too risky!! Lol
    A fabulous post. I really enjoyed!
    Thank you so much.😊😊

  9. Great to see you back😊I have been thinking of where did you go..
    Very nice post.We love bicyckles over here..Most of is do is easy and free..Flowers..hmm.I just got a buquet of roses today since its Valentine..But I prefer those yellow ones growing everywhere..For me it means..We give never up..We come again and again..(symbol working class hero flower)
    Ok have a nice week to you and your family😘

  10. In Maine I bike more than drive except during our long winter. During UK sabbaticals, I cycled around Oxford with trepidation, but I never had the courage to cycle in London. I love your imagery in this post: great capture!

  11. I live in a rural area outside of a small town, so crowds of any variety are foreign to me. I'd probably be a nervous wreck trying to navigate the sea of pedestrians and bicycles!

    So good to see a new post from you. :)

  12. My idea of cycling is a leisurely ride through scenic rural areas. As much as I love cities, I don't believe I've ever had the fortitude to ride a bike in the hustle-bustle of a crowded city. Your writing, however, paints a very vivid image of the scurrying people and bikes. I can see the scene in my mind's eye, and that suits me just dandy. Better than being in the midst of it in reality. :)

  13. Wonderful, evocative post. You put smack dab on the road, watching out for cyclists.

  14. Evocative post: space and water. Two commodities that, in the future, will be worth a king's ransom.

  15. Wonderful description. I love the way you leave the colour up to us!

  16. cool thoughts. Never before compared a cyclist with a dagger :)

    Nice seeing you again.

  17. Thank you for letting us "feel" what it's like living in London.
    Stay safe!

  18. it's not just other cyclists who feel like that about Uber and Deliveroo cyclists. They're a nightmare in spaces shared with pedestrians (eg underpasses), they never use their bells (do they even know what bells are?) and become a danger to everyone.

  19. Hi ACIL - oh I can see it all, even though I don't come to London that often. Here cyclists that annoy are the ones with only their own self-importance as they scatter anyone deigning to walk around, the serious ones gravitate to the roads away from the town centre ... but London does take us back over time - and your history reminders are good for the thought passages. Great to see a post from your urban diary ... Hilary

  20. Oh happy day.
    A post that is a pleasure to read.
    Cyclists? They're fine as long as they know their place...
    The bike lane!

  21. Thanks for sharing your urban diary, you should you see cyclists in Amsterdam.

  22. Fantastic description. Thank you.

  23. I know there is a picture in your post, but your words paint one too :)

    All the best Jan

  24. I loved reading your writeup!! I don’t know why I love watching those Hermes and Mercury squirming around. It might be because of my obsession with cycling. I appreciate your observation and meticulous writing. Happy writing!!Please visit us at

  25. I'm enjoying reading posts written before life seemed to change so dramatically. I like this vivid evocation of riding a bike in traffic. Some days I find it exhilarating, other days a bit scary.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...