Harlow. It’s one of a number of New Towns built near London in the late 1940s to accommodate those left homeless during after WW2 and to provide affordable housing. This year it celebrates 70 years of existence. As you may read, it doesn’t enjoy the best of reputations but it is here that I ride my bike to and from work on most days. The inner part is connected with a series of main roads, numerous roundabouts and a series of shared paths that I am led to believe lead to older, smaller villages that now make up its suburbs.
I use these paths a lot to avoid the rush hour traffic and with it comes the omnipressant need to anticipate the unobservant and the towns “yoovs” who seem to take a delight in getting in my way. I don’t know whether they’re too mentally challenged to courteously move aside or trying to big themselves up to their equally brainless mates in a game of chicken. Perhaps both. Some are too engrossed in their addiction to digital media to bother looking up as they’re engaged in some game on their phone or wired in to listen to the latest “choons”. As the days are getting longer I spend more time riding along this network (not everyone uses lights at night here) and I am sometimes reminded of my own youth as my nostrils fill with a familiar aroma of cannabis as someone, somewhere sucks on a crafty joint. At least the dog walkers seem to take care as I rarely fly through any presents left by their canine friends. This 5km ride on bumpy, poorly maintained surfaces is the price that I pay to avoid the busy roads as I do what other commuters do-get outta Dodge, as fast as possible!
Yesterday was no different as I rushed through work to leave early so that I could be home in time to provide the usual taxi service to football training for master9*. I took a short route through town with the plan of joining the main road out up to Sheering. I hate that ride up the hill to Sheering. It’s always busy and on a Friday it is the worst as many impatient drivers pass closely in the attempt to get home while staying in the lane. It is impossible to pass a bike safely on that road to avoid oncoming traffic. I have had a few close ones on that stretch so I avoid it when I can. After a relatively quiet run on the path and with a bit of time to spare, I was in no mood for the Sheering road so opted for the quieter but longer route.
It was mild and sunny and I had a tailwind of sorts so looked forward to enjoying the ride in the quintessential English countryside as spring awakens. Ah yes, I could see it all before me; cottage gardens flowing with flowering bulbs, a patient bird of prey hovering, alert for a kill, rabbits darting in and out of hedge rows, great vistas of green fields, the slow setting sun winking through cloud casting long shadows across my path…out here I am taken away from chaotic survival, where average speed and time have no relevance, where I can feel the beauty all around.
But for yesterday at least, the Friday escape from Harlow extended to these back roads too with a number of drivers choosing the close pass option in their apparent haste-yes dpd courier, I’m talking about YOU! It seemed that everyone was in a hurry to be somewhere fast, like a mass panic in a disaster movie. It wasn’t until I got 4km from home that I felt that I could relax but by then I was too spent from 100miles in 3 days to enjoy any of it. It ended as a grind of high cadence, complaining legs and stinging sweaty eyes. Yuck!
* I am not a grass roots football fan but I do enjoy helping out with the coaching and being goalkeeper in the end of session kickabout games. That’s good fielding training for cricket for which I am a grass roots fan. Yesterday was great fun-apparently I am the best goalkeeper that the boys have EVER seen 😂 They’re only 10 but as they regularly watch Lloris, DeGea, Hart and Courtois I’ll gratefully accept that compliment!