Cycling · Performing Arts · Sport

Week 28: Riding to London and an American in Paris

The week started again as usual, heading into the department, coming home again and so on. I thought it was going to be a rather inconsequential and uneventful week. As it turns out, on Tuesday afternoon, I ate a seemingly inconspicuous lamb and mushroom pie for lunch, but afterwards I started to feel unwell. At first I thought I’d been overcome with overwhelming hunger pains, but it turned out to be quite the opposite, throwing up as soon as I got home. I’d already arranged to meet Annalise for dinner that in college that night, but when it came to it I couldn’t eat more than a few bites, and even then couldn’t hold it down afterwards. What followed was a rather miserable’s night sleep.

When I woke up in the morning, I attempted breakfast, but every bite felt forced and I wasn’t really into it, and sure enough I again couldn’t keep it down. I felt heavy and hence stayed home to recover. I got a bit of rest, tried Skyping friends back home but that only made me homesick and emotionally confused on top of the delirium from being ill. At the end of the day, I braved up and left the house to go to the GSCR where the University’s Vice Chancellor was hosting a Q&A with the Gates Scholars, professing his views on the future of the University with an uncertain regulatory and economic prospects ahead, and the Gates Scholarships’ role within it. It’s always nice to see the head of an organisation meeting with its stakeholders, but there wasn’t anything all that unexpected to hear.

On Thursday I tried to brave going to work again. It didn’t last very long, and I retreated home to get a little bit more rest. It wouldn’t be until Friday that I had another decent day of work for the week, at which point I was back to my sprightly usual self.

A little nervous having just been sick, on Saturday morning I set out on an ambitious ride. I planned to ride all the way from Cambridge to London. It’s nominally about 80 km along the shortest route, but this was part of my training for my upcoming ride in Sheffield. As such, I detoured to ride up some of the few decent hills in Cambridgeshire and northern Hertfordshire. It began as a mostly flat ride, but that quickly turned into the typical picture of rolling English hills. I stuck to the quiet back roads as much as possible until I reached Potters Bar, at the edge of Greater London. I grabbed some juice to refuel from a local supermarket. Ordinarily, it would be a rather direct downhill ride into King’s Cross from here but I was aware of a number of hills in the Hampstead/Highgate area, and was determined to get at least some climbing done. So I detoured around four steep urban climbs in the last 20 km of my ride, the steepest being past the Highgate cemetery. It was just the workout I needed, and soon enough, I arrived at King’s Cross to meet Annalise and Jacqueline, who had travelled in by train.

There were some (overpriced) showers in King’s Cross, so I got changed and we headed out into London. We had some hours to kill, and it was an unseasonably warm day (around 23 degrees Celsius, most other days were about 13-14), so we walked out to Hyde Park through the warm London streets. It seemed everyone was outdoors, and Oxford Street was packed even more than normal. When we did arrive at Hyde Park, we made our way to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, a circular water feature shaped in a ring which the water flowed around. It was only half a foot deep, so that you could take off your shoes and relax with your feet in the water. Many other English families had the same idea, so there were lots of children running around, but it was nice to enjoy something resembling warm weather (being South Australian I complained that it wasn’t really shorts weather yet, but my Canadian and New Zealander colleagues dismissed me out of hand).

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We caught the tube back into the West End to get to the Dominion Theatre at Tottenham Court Road. We had tickets to see that night’s performance of An American in Paris. The production is based on the work of American classical/jazz composer George Gershwin, in particular his piece by the same name but also a number of his other works and some well-blended other music in-between. The story followed a pair of American soldiers and their French friend having stayed in Paris after the fall of the Vichy in World War II and their associated love quadrangle. Whilst it did follow a number of typical musical/opera/rom-com tropes, there was a strong element of swing dancing throughout the performance that was well-executed and exciting to watch. Our seats at the back didn’t detract from our view of the stage. The music was some of the best quality that I’ve seen in the West End (being composed by Gershwin helps), but even then it was integrated in a clever way that left me waiting and anticipating the full rendition of the titular song. It ranked in my top two West End shows to date. After, it was a rather tiring train ride back home to Cambridge.

Sunday was another unseasonably warm day in the low-mid twenties. In the morning, I tuned into the Paris-Roubaix bike race over the cobblestone roads of Northern France, but after I decided to get out and be outside for a while. I got on my bike and rode wherever I felt around Cambridge. I didn’t have a plan, I just went wherever I felt like going. There was a strong wind out, which was a little annoying, but it felt so nice to be out in the sun. Eventually, I went out to sit around on the grass (as it seemed everyone else was doing) and just enjoy myself. I was later joined by Jacqueline, and we went out to grab take-out Indian food to eat (without utensils) on Parker’s Piece.

From there, we rode out to the north of the city, where I had arranged to see a property for let for the next academic year. Over the past little while, I had been browsing the private property market for student lets, and this was the first that I had arranged a viewing for. It was a terrace house on a somewhat main road. I knocked on the front door, but was directed to the somewhat overgrown backyard and its rear door. The landlord was out of town, so we were being shown around by one of the current tenants. Being the first house, I wanted to get an idea for the typical sizes and value of the houses on the market, and I wasn’t expecting much. The three bedrooms were somewhat cramped, with very little floorspace beyond the bed. Even though the kitchen appliances were mostly brand new, it all felt a little dark and cramped. The asking price probably accounted for its location close to town, but I didn’t feel all that comfortable with it.

We thanked the tennant and left. Not having anything to do that evening, Jacqueline suggested heading to Churchill college to play some table-tennis. I agreed, but the table had been moved from its previous place near the MCR to the squash courts. We got the key to the courts, but in the search to find table-tennis gear, we decided to change plans and try out squash instead. Squash isn’t a sport I’ve played before, so we had to quickly look up the rules. Soon enough, though, we got going and were running around the court. Being able to play the ball off multiple surfaces makes it an interesting sport to play, and you have to be able to be agile and change directions much more quickly than some other sports. We eventually exhausted ourselves, and went to get some water to rehydrate us both. From here, it was time to head back home to rest up for the week ahead.


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