Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve been living in a different country from everyone else. While the rest of the UK was blanketed in a deep layer of snow, we in north London had pretty much none. Until now, that is. A few inches fell over the weekend and, amazingly, has stuck around.
Ordinarily – despite being a committed cyclist – in such circumstances I’d leave the bike at home and get the train to work. But this week there is no train to be got. With perversely perfect timing, the North London line between Stratford and Gospel Oak is closed for planned engineering works.
Yes, I could get the tube into work. But as that involves a bus, three tubes – one of which was severely delayed today because of the weather – and another bus at the other end, it’s a journey I try to avoid if at all possible.
So – despite knowing that it probably wasn’t the most sensible thing I’d ever done – I was on my bike again today. Oh, don’t worry. I’m not completely reckless. I changed my route so that it was almost entirely on main roads – even though it effectively meant I was cycling three sides of a square to get to work. I didn’t try to weave in and out of the traffic. I slowed to almost a crawl in places, and was so, so careful on corners and going downhill.
But as I found out, there were just some things that I just couldn’t predict. Like a sudden inability to actually ride my bike on my way home.
Picture the scene. I’m near Angel (on the one-way bit going from Pentonville Road turning left to go up Upper Street, to be precise). The road is clear of any snow or ice, but chockablock full of traffic, which is at a standstill. I’m stuck behind a row of cars, when I see a gap in the traffic. I move towards it, and find myself alongside a bus. A woman steps out from in front of it – forcing me to stop. She stops, too, when she sees me, and apologises. I smile to indicate to her that it’s not a problem – I wasn’t going very fast anyway, and I was in no danger of hitting her. I get back on my bike.
And promptly ride straight into the side of the big, red, definitely-not-moving-at-all bus right next to me.
As I lurch ungracefully off to one side, grabbing onto the bike to stop it – and me – from toppling over, the woman looks at me with a strange expression. An odd combination of shock, bemusement and amusement – as though she can’t quite work out whether she should apologise to me again, or just laugh at me. Meanwhile, a number of passengers on the bus are peering out of the window to see what’s going on. I can feel my face going crimson, even despite the cold.
‘Oops,’ I say, as I pedal off – this time avoiding the bus and all other obstacles in my way.