Thursday, 18 June 2015

Musings on city running, art, the big and the small...

Just back from a long weekend in London with some friends which involved lots of catching up, lazing around, eating brilliant food (loads of sushi, Ian's courgetty spaghetti, my homemade focaccia), going to loads of museums and being a complete tourist. The British Museum was a particular highlight for me; seeing the Lewis Chessmen and the Rosetta Stone was well worthwhile. I've no idea how we managed to fit in as much as we did and the days flew past.

Some lovely noms

After eating a not insignificant amount of cake, sourdough bread and goats cheese the day before I felt like I really needed to work off some of the calories so went for a longer than expected trot.


Following the route we walked on Saturday, I headed out of Blackheath, across the heath itself and past the London Marathon start line before heading past the Greenwich Royal Observatory to find a great view of the city.

From there a short downhill hurtle, startling sluggish squirrels and ponderous wood pigeons and through the streets to the Cutty Sark where I met Albert the Harris Hawk (complete with trained hi-viz arm) on his Monday morning pigeon scaring round.

The waterfront afforded a glimpse of the Millennium Dome (or whatever it is called these days) and the sweep of the river around the Isle of Dogs. The smell of the Thames area seemed slighty salty, rotten and muddy like one of the old wooden jettys that still punctuate bits of the shore. The sounds were the wind, the washing of the river on the bank, clanking of the various bits of industrial units or building sites and the grumbling of passing boats and water taxis. It made for an interesting and pleasant running atmosphere, for the novelty if nothing else.

Pleasingly I had the Thames path mostly to myself apart from the odd jogger coming the other way. Having heard anecdotally that runners in London don't do eye contact, nods or smiles, I can confirm that this is most certainly the case. People in the city, more so than elsewhere I find, seem to exist in a tunnel wherein it is them, their destination and nothing else. I suppose it is a defence mechanism to stop them from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer weight of people on the pavement, on the roads, on the tube or bus. London is so crammed in, so squeezed that even the streets feel hemmed in and enclosed, almost pushing you inside yourself. I guess I'm just calibrated for open spaces.


There are several bits of modern artwork and sculpture along the Thames as part of The Line. The abstract signpost above is mounted on the Greenwich Meridian, pointing due north with the number representing the number of miles necessary to travel around the globe to arrive back "here" at the starting point. I'm pleased to see they used the correct figure that accounts for the fact that the earth is an oblate spheroid and not a perfect sphere which goes to show you don't stop being an engineer just because you are on holiday. Put that number into perspective with the amount of miles that people drive, run, or cycle every year and it gives you a bit more of a sense of scale as to the size of the planet and perhaps how small we are in comparison.

"A slice of ship, Vicar? One lump or two?"

Proving that folk will nick anything that isn't nailed down, this poor artist has had most of his ship purloined leaving on bricks. He's not going to be able to sail it anywhere, least in the name of art.

Beneath the Emirates Air Line gondola sits Antony Gormley's "Quantum Cloud" which seemingly crackles like static on a untuned radio. You can make out the characteristic Gormley figure inside the cloud and the whole construction sits really well against the backdrop of the sky and the city. Thinking about the relative vastness of space between the elementary particles that make up matter and the cloud of electrons around the nucleus making you contemplate the small through the medium of the very big. If that last sentence doesn't get me in Private Eye's "Pseuds Corner" then I quit.

A bit further than I originally planned to run but I continued out along towards the Thames Barrier. I'd never seen it in the flesh but I remember it being in a book on buildings I read when I was younger so was quite keen to take a look. They could have chosen to dress up these flood gates however they wished but they chose almost pearlescent art deco teeth, appropriate for the mouth of the river. Sadly the vistors centre wasn't open, and even if it was I'm not sure a sweaty Yorkshireman would be first on the list to get in.

So instead of the usual fell top views and ups and downs I traded it all in for the life of a city runner for a day. Whilst it's great to see the sights of The Big Smoke on a run I wouldn't swap it for a blowy moorland shuffle any day.


Having not run for this distance on hard surface for a long while, I can confirm that my legs were in agony for the next few days. I must meditate on my own advice once in a while!


No comments:

Post a Comment