Wednesday 30 December 2020

Chilly Brompton Christmas ride III

Yesterday in the early evening having stuck my head out of the front door and seeing what the weather was like, I deemed it suitable to venture out for a little 24 mile spin in London. Wrapping up and taking a small, steel 500ml thermos flask filled with some of the finest Italian coffee available, I set off with my Orange Titanium Brompton. 

In SW7 things were quiet. It felt a little bit like '28 Days Later.' Normally in this area there are at least lots of police officers about. There weren't any. There weren't even that many cars about either. I suppose Tier 4 means there is little point for many people as nothing is open anyway.

When I arrived at Buckingham Place I could not help but replay a conversation in my head from several years ago, when an old friend had bought a truly enormous house just to the south of the Thames. At the time I said something like, are you really going to use all these rooms? He simply replied, 'what about Buckingham Palace.' Standing there taking a photo of it I could see that he had a point.

At the London Eye there were lots of people about in close proximity to each other not really adhering to what we are all supposed to be doing. 

I cycled further east and went as far as Canary Wharf before heading back towards central London again. For quite some time now I have only ever taken my iPhone with me as my sole camera. I am constantly impressed at how good a photo it can take at night with very little effort. The 4K video it can take (again also at night) is better still and as such I rarely feel the need to carry anything more. 

This was actually the third nocturnal outing to take photos of London at night. Part II won't appear a a blog post sadly as the friend I went with (the owner of that big house) isn't just camera shy, they lead an analogue life - no mobile phone, no online get the idea. 

Back in central London outside the Gherkin I decided to take a few photos. I was not alone as there were a number of others doing the same. A family - dad with his daughter and son - were busy taking photos of London at night. The dad remarked that a Brompton was the best way of doing this and I agreed. (Chris if you are reading this, it was a pleasure meeting you and the family. Email me if you wants me more info on all things Brompton). 

Stopping at 'Fortnum and Mason' I could not help but think of memories of Christmas past. This was one of the haunts of my late mum, who enjoyed going there for a pot of tea and usually a slice of something. I remember fondly going there as a small child and enjoying tea and cake. Sadly, I cannot bring myself to ever go there anymore as it is a bit of a tourist thing nowadays. 

Back at Oxford Street, like the theme for much of this ride, things were quiet to say the least. In fact there has not been a time when I have ever seen it like this. London normally always has something going on whatever the time and whatever day of the week. 

I have not suffered too badly from the dreaded 'C' word. I don't know many who have succumbed to it and those who did have thankfully not suffered too badly. Fortunately, I have had the company of Mrs Orange and the Orangettes which always makes me happy and all I really need to do so. I have always been one of those people who can potter around and find something to entertain.

I am however someone who hates being told what to do or have restrictions imposed on what I can and cannot do and this aspect I have found difficult. An outlet has been the Brompton and venturing out on it on mini adventures has definitely helped in a big way.

I really do hope that wherever you are you have not been too badly affected by the 'C' word. I have always been an eternal optimist and it has been said that if I had of been on the Titanic I would have been the person saying, 'don't's all going to be okay!' So, now I have told you that, as far as 2021 is concerned, don't's all going to be okay! I hope that for all of us 2021 will be better!

So, thank you for reading and continuing to read and I wish you are very happy new year!! Until next time, stay safe out there people!!


Thursday 24 December 2020

Happy Christmas fellow Brompton riders (and those on larger wheels too)!!

Well Christmas is nearly upon us and this one is going to be rather different!! Here in London we find ourselves in 'Tier 4' which means the plans for a limited getting together has been dashed. 

Throughout the worst of lockdown one of the things outside of my family bubble that has kept me happy have been my two Brompton bicycles. I have still managed to explore, go on adventures and even got in a few of my beloved night rides to the coast. I suspect several months into 2021 will be much of a repeat of 2020 but things will get better. In addition to this are the enduring friendships I have made simply by owning a small-wheeled folding bicycle!

So, wherever you are, even if you do not celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry one - as much as you can have in these strange times.

Stay safe out there people!

Friday 18 December 2020

Tiny London on an Orange Brompton

Last Sunday (13th December) I joined a socially distanced ride in London, where the rule of six applied. The theme was tiny London. The meeting point was at the Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner and I had been looking forward to it regardless of the forecast of rain all day. Taking my Orange, Black Special Edition out, together with my rain jacket (just in case) I set off for the 09:45 start.

At Hyde Park Corner things were decidedly quiet. Cycling through Hyde Park on the way were equally so. I arrived first and took little time in opening the batting with a few photos of my Brompton. Before long Peter - on his Brompton too - Sarah, then our ride leader (and gentleman that is ) Ross with Greg arriving not too long thereafter.  Setting off we headed for our first location.

This was Thurloe Square. Situated a stones throw from South Kensington tube station and all the famous bits of my beloved South Kensington, the 'Thin House' as it is known, at its narrowest, is just under 2 metres wide! From where we stood to look at it, things do border on the ridiculous until you remember where it is located. In 2016, a one bedroom flat (if you can call it that) in that part of the building was on the market for almost £900,000.

Next was the Finborough Arms in West Brompton, home to The Finborough Theatre. With only a 50 seat capacity it is one of the smallest in London. I imagine being an audience member would be an intimate affair. As someone who does not really care too much for theatre, I am certain I would hate it!

The forecast told of rain but luckily there really wasn't a great deal of it and heading south across the Thames for a while we eventually ended up near Hammersmith. We were unable to cross one of my favourite Bridges in London - Hammersmith - as there are structural issues that will require several millions and a few years to put right. So far there is no timescale or anyone lambing up the necessary folding stuff to put it right. 

The Dove, Hammersmith owned by the brewery Fullers since 1796 occupies a site where a pub had stood since the seventeenth century. There it is said the poet James Thompson composed 'Rule Britannia.' Charles II wooed and dined his mistress Nell Gywnne and it was in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest bar room in the world!

Back in SW7 we stopped at one of the few taxi huts dotted around London. There taxi drivers can get a bite to eat, cup of tea and have a break for a while. The only other one I know about it in Cavendish Square. I can recall as a child heading up to this one overlooking Hyde Park, getting a bacon roll and mug of tea with my dad before heading to Portobello Road to stock up on fruit. 

10 Hyde Park Place is a rather strange building, sitting in a prime location overlooking Hyde Park. Only a little wider than its front door, it is part of Tyburn Convent. It has been said that it was built between two mansion blocks to deter possible grave robbers, who had in the past used the passage to reach St George's graveyard to the rear. Inside there is little more than a passage and a small room. If it were ever sold I am sure it could command an eye watering price. Location, location, location!

At Pickering Place, a walk down a narrow alley leads to a small courtyard that is definitely a walk into the past. Home to Berry Brothers wine merchants, it is one of the smallest public courtyards in London. 

It was also home to the Embassy of the Republic of Texas before it joined the USA in 1845. 

Being quiet, out of the way and private it was said to be a favourite location for duels. Yes the glove in the face, pistols and swords at dawn!

Looping back round to Trafalgar Square we came across London's smallest police station. Almost to be missed if not looking for it, at the south east corner stands what has been billed for several years as the  smallest in London. 

Used as a lookout post the light on top was said to flash - like a lighthouse - when the alert was raised! 

Brydges Place is an alleyway between St. Martin's Lane and Bebfordbury, running alongside the Coliseum Theatre. It really is narrow, being only 38cm at one point which why it lays claim to be the narrowest street in London.

Arriving at the traffic lights in-front of the The Old Vic theatre made me think of night rides to the coast. My route to Brighton takes me right at these lights. Hopefully early into 2021 we will do this again. 

Clennan Street, SE1 until it was restricted to pedestrians only, was London's shortest street. It is also home to The Lord Clyde pub which for a couple of years was the starting point of Brompton Christmas rides. 

Philpot Lane in view of the Walkie Talkie building is the site of London's smallest public statue. It is said that it commemorates the death of two workmen who fell from scaffold in 1862 when the building was being built. Apparently they were arguing over the theft of a cheese sandwich of all things, which was later put down to have been taken by mice. 

In Bishopsgate, St Ethelburga's founded in 1250 is London's smallest church and one of the few medieval buildings to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666. It also managed to get through WWII and the Blitz but in 1993 and IRA bomb all but destroyed it. It was eventually rebuilt. 

Our last stop before we arrived back at the end location of Russell Square and food and hot drinks was Keystone Crescent. This contains some lovely little town houses and the crescent has the smallest radius of any crescent in Europe. Close to Kings Cross station - despite being rather small - houses on Keystone Crescent command seven figure sums. 


This was a brilliant ride. I have lived in London all my life and yet there are always locations that are new with a history and story to them that were previously unknown. This ride certainly had more than a few of these. Many thanks to Ross for leading the ride and to my fellow participants for their company. 

In all I cycled 27 miles and the rain wasn't really a huge issue. I don't know when my next ride will be as it is getting rather close to Christmas but I am sure I will be out and about on one of my Brompton bikes somewhere.

Until next time, stay safe out there people!!