Sunday, July 1

on your boris

A must-do London experience if you have the energy and it isn't pouring with rain, is to hire a "Boris Bike" and cruise with the wind in your hair and the traffic banking up at your rear. I'm sure the local drivers think it is a hideous system; the traffic infiltrated with attention deficit tourists on the wrong side of the road.  Officially Barclays Cycle Hire, the system is affectionately called "Boris" after the London Mayor who introduced it last year.  How fortunate that his name started with a B, much catchier than the David or John bike. 

There are over 8,000 bikes and 570 docking stations throughout Zone 1 of the city, and for only one pound you can hire a bike for 24 hours. If you are only after a short trip, the first half hour is free (and if you are a major tight ass, you can dock your bike every half hour and start again with no charge) That my friend is a London bargain. 

I thought it would be good idea to ride eastward along Regent's Canal from Paddington Station. I should have watched the short "how it works" video online to avoid looking like a total loser by sticking a one pound coin in the slot where the token is meant to go. You are meant to insert your credit card into the info point and it spits out the token which releases Boris from the rack. No credit card, no ride.

After a false start around the block, I found the canal, then proceeded to ride in the wrong direction, back to Paddington Station. A u-turn and second attempt, and I'm on my way, cruising gayly, ignoring the rubbish in the water for the delights of canal boats and flower baskets, until a flight of stairs had me detouring into the streets. Reunited with the canal at Regent's Park I sped through the mayhem of Camden Market and onto my old stomping ground at Islington, where Boris and I bade our farewell.

I found a hysterical second hand store, with room only for a slim person to slide sideways between teetering columns and unsteady piles. Had I an empty suitcase, I could have filled it with tea cups, cutlery and useful bric-a-brac for less than the price of a night out in Soho with a Polish barman. How glad I am that my priorities have changed.  Now where was that deer antler carving knife?

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