Friday, 4 November 2011

There's a rat in the suburbs

Recently a Kiwi friend was over in the UK for business and, in return for curry house recommendations, he offered to take back some Christmas pressies for family & friends in his suitcase. The only catch was that said presents would need to be at his hotel in Heathrow by Wednesday. So after a mad run about the shops to acquire and wrap said presents (it being quite early for Christmas-present-acquiring, even for organised control freaks like me), I set off after work to cycle to Heathrow. It's not far, I thought. And the exercise will do me good. Except that the normal 15 minute journey by taxi down the A4/M4 isn't generally something people want to attempt by bike.

My Garmin offered two routing options: Car (ie via M4) or Bike (via every side road in West London). It does not, sadly, offer a "Reasonably Direct but Not Hellish Scary" option. I opted for the detour as I didn't fancy dicing with death and instead suffered miles and miles of endless kebab shops, horrible council estates, angry mini cabs and series of traffic lights. And lo, eventually, I arrived at the posh hotel, ran the gauntlet of the condescending concierge in my lycra and then contemplated my options.

By this stage it was 8pm. I was hungry, more than 15 miles from home, and could not face another Endless Detour of Grim Suburbs. Sod You, Garmin, I said, as I set off down the A4, I shall find my own (Direct) path home. As the traffic increased and sped up, I retreated onto the pavement. I turned my front light on to full beam just in time to illuminate an enormous rat, just in front of me, at which I squealed like a girl and nearly fell off. In an attempt to repel further rodents, I sang loudly. It didn't work. Apparently rats they do not fear the power of Dolly Parton songs.

Eventually, with a couple of duff dead end turns and some lucky recognising of place names, I made it home and inhaled half the fridge. You can tell it's been a while since I've been cycling regularly. Schoolgirl errors 1) to not check maps BEFORE you set out and 2) not take enough food for all eventualities. Gah. More cycling required.

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