Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday 29 August 2010

Back on the bike, to Broadway Market

I haven't been cycling much: too lazy when it was hot, too comfort-loving when it was raining, and all the time too aware of various creaks and rattles and too mean to pay for professional servicing (the place I bought it from ended up charging me, for its first annual service, about half what it cost in the first place).

With some help from the local cycle group's monthly maintenance workshop, I sorted out the wobbly wheel with a spoke-wrench and a new tyre; only to find that somehow I'd misadjusted the gears, and couldn't work out whether I had the cable too tight or too loose. Finally, after weeks of on-and-off ineffectual prodding and puzzled staring (I'm good at that), the gears magically relented, and suddenly worked as the shift control said they should.

So yesterday I went for a gentle ride up the Regent's Canal to Broadway Market. This is a short street between the canal and London Fields, barely a hundred yards long, nowadays the heartland of the knit-your-own-vegan-bicycle classes.

Above the street, there is a fine display of flags of all nations, suggesting a high proportion of transient flatsharers from other parts of the world alongside the established immigrant communities (in this part of London, noticeably Turkish and Vietnamese).

Further gentrification is clearly on the way in the surrounding neighbourhood, to judge by the estate agents' windows, but for now, there's a mix of old and new, with art bookshops and upmarket florists cheek-by-jowl with secondhand furniture, the Turkish barber, and a traditional tiled-interior pie and mash shop:

This isn't really a general, buy anything you need, sort of market. True, there are ordinary shops along the street, but I only saw one greengrocer's stall. This market is more about entertainment and casual, fancy-that, shopping. Beside the street musician, there were crocheted blankets, knitted teacosies and winter coats for your hairy-handbag dog, handmade guitars, secondhand bikes, homemade birthday cards and ladies' scanties:

Mostly, what's on sale is food - and more food. On top of the cafés and restaurants spilling out on to the street, you can browse the stalls, and let yourself be tempted by Portuguese hog-roast, German bratwurst, Polish pastries, Italian varietal olive oils, fish, fudge - and (this year's craze) cupcakes:

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Lovely Eleanor

Well, I don't know that she was, but Eleanor of Castile inspired one of the more romantic mediaeval acts of love.

Passing through Charing Cross, I noticed that the huge stone cross in the forecourt has been restored and cleaned up. It's a Victorian reinvention of the memorial cross put up by King Edward I to Eleanor of Castile, his wife. She died near Lincoln in 1290, and her body was brought back to London; everywhere the cortège rested for the night, Edward had a memorial cross built. The last night before her interment in Westminster Abbey was reputedly spent just here.

The romance of it seems all the more remarkable, bearing in mind that in those days royal marriages were about dynastic business and strategic relationships; and Edward himself was one of the grimmer examples of a warrior king, known as "Hammer of the Scots", and conqueror of the last native Welsh princes, famously tricking the Welsh nobles into accepting his infant son as Prince of Wales (because they said they would only accept one who spoke no English).

The original mediaeval cross was removed in the iconoclasms of the Civil War in the 17th century, and not replaced until the railway company commissioned something grand to mark their new station in 1865. And now the grime and decay of the industrial era has been scraped away, and graceful and delicate details can be seen once more - if you dodge the circling taxis, that is.

Saturday 14 August 2010


I've just seen someone use this word, evidently to mean cycling on what I suppose we must now submit to calling a Borisbike (it does at least pre-empt any possible use by the tabloids the next time they want to suggest he may have a play-away-mate).

Logically, one might expect it to be "boricling", but that obviously would refer the visible adherence of lycra after exceptional exertions on one of these wonder-machines.

Friday 13 August 2010

What personality?

My sister-in-law is mystified at being identified as a mechanic.

Such is the world of psychometric testing, particularly when it's yoked to some automatic prose analysis system. I've done more than one Myers-Briggs test; I can never remember what it said, though I'm sure I winced in recognition at being consistently labelled an introvert, and that it didn't leave me aghast, or rolling on the floor in laughter.

This, on the other hand, seems particularly fanciful. I wasn't surprised to find that the results varied according to the prose that's fed into it. Some very dull and factual stuff had me among the INTJ "Scientists", but two separate submissions of this blog had me first among the ENTP "Visionaries":

They highly value knowledge, and spend much of their lives seeking a higher understanding. They live in the world of possibilities, and become excited about concepts, challenges and difficulties. When presented with a problem, they're good at improvising and quickly come up with a creative solution. Creative, clever, curious, and theoretical"

and then among the ESTP "Doers":

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

I may be inclined to start things without finishing them, but I have absolutely no problem about sitting still and inactive. The two traits are not unrelated.

What does surprise me (though perhaps it shouldn't) is the suggestion of an inner extrovert, just waiting to burst out of this blog, vuvuzelatastically spurting party poppers and goosing passers-by.

I rather suspect, though, that if I give it another go, it'll tell me I'm something else, but will never be uncomplimentary. So keep trying, Nancy, you could turn out to be among the Performers, Artists, Inspirers or Idealists. Perhaps it just needs to be given a biscuit.

Saturday 7 August 2010

A musical offering

A colleague, whose mind is often more on music than current affairs, found himself referring to Baroque Obama.