a city through the eyes of a girl who's not sure how she ended up here

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Under the bridge

I am lurking, like a fairytale troll in wet running gear, beneath a bridge.  The rain pours down on either side of the arch, so hard it bounces back up off the surface of the canal.  As I watch, the towpath starts to flood in spectacular fashion.  I pause the app tracking my morning run on my iPhone and silence the pounding dance music that had been spurring me on for the past couple of miles.  Instead I listen to the sound of water on water, of water on gravel, of water on leaves.  I'm going to be stuck here beneath this bridge for some time it seems.
Two other runners shelter in the damp gloom with me, as does a tramp eating his breakfast.  We exchange friendly grimaces in recognition of our shared sogginess, and edge towards the centre of the underpass where the slicing rain cannot touch us.  On the canal next to us, a flotilla of tiny, beeping coots on a Sunday swim with mummy squeak to one another, huge raindrops plopping onto their neat little heads.  The odd hardened runner (looking like they're on the final leg of a triathlon, so wet are their clothes) powers through the bridge, making slow, splashy progress along the towpath.  White lycra plastered to one guy reveals a perfect Ken-doll six-pack beneath his shirt.  (Sadly he doesn't stop beneath my bridge to exchange training tips.)

The tramp, breakfast finished, is now making himself comfy, unfurling his sleeping mat and hunkering down beneath the dripping bricks.  Run-off swirls through the gutter running underneath the bridge, and the rain shows no sign of ceasing.  Beneath the next bridge along the canal - under which shelter more rain-soaked runners and Sunday morning walkers - a wide barge appears.  At the helm is  an elegantly clad amazon in a hooded oilskin and a brightly-striped maxi dress, beneath which pokes a pair of white DMs.  Between bridges her fellow bargee holds a large yellow umbrella up over her head, valiantly trying to keep the rain off her glasses as she mans the tiller.  As the pair pass beneath our bridge their greetings and pseudo-jolly comments about the weather echo around us off the curved walls.   

Windows up above the canal look blankly down, behind them more sensible, dry Londoners read Sunday papers and eat croissants.  As the pounding rain begins to slow a fraction I realise I am totally sodden, a few miles from home and suddenly slightly envious of the cosy croissant-eaters.  I should really start heading back.  So I strike out from my bridge, turning back the way I've come.  Moving very slowly and gingerly over the streaming cobbles, feeling the rainwater sloshing into my trainers.  Eyes on the ground judging the deepest parts of the puddles, occasionally ending up ankle-deep with a misplaced stride.  A enormous grin spreads across my face for some reason, I'm enjoying the novelty of this torrential run; it's me against the British weather, and whilst I can still run I'm winning.  

I make it back to Camden Lock in time for another particularly heavy deluge, and, surrendering my victory, duck in to a branch of Starbucks for shelter and something hot and liquid to warm my soaked self.  I loathe this particular caffeine-peddling chain; it is a reflection of just how bad the weather is that I am happy to seek refuge in here.  Both the service and coffee are decidedly substandard but the cappuccino holds off the sodden shivers until I begin to splosh my way home.  With the contents of a cloud held in my clothing.   

15 comments:

  1. That's pretty impressive! I decline to walk the mile to the train station in the rain and you go running in it! I enjoy your style of writing - I felt like I was there under the bridge with you, almost reaching out to touch that six pack.

    I'm not a fan of Starbucks either but that branch at Camden is particularly diabolical.

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    1. Hurrah! Your comments are showing up, Mandy (thanks for the wisdom on how to find them...!) And thanks for your kind words about my writing.

      Yeah that Camden Lock Starbucks is a particularly grim branch of the chain; it also appears to be staffed by half-wits, which doesn't help...

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  2. Good description! It will take a lot to get me into Starbucks but sounds as if this would have done!

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    1. Torrential rain is pretty much the only thing that would induce me, Jenny.

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    1. Ha! Run more than a mile before having to stop and we'll talk, Morgan...

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  4. Love reading this, great writing! Come by and check out my blog if you like it I would love it if you followed me.

    xo Andrea
    http://uskar-vor-inspire.blogspot.ca

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  5. Running in the rain is something else - as long as you are not cold, the conditions are exhilarating and typically there is the fantastic fresh smell of ozone that just spurs you on!
    We really should meet up for a chatty run along the canals/river/parks.

    LCM x

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    1. Ha, we should LCM! Although I have a feeling you will run me into the ground.

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  6. My solution is to use a treadmill... But if you do, you will not write such posts, which would be a shame! As for Starbucks, I tend to prefer other coffees but have to admit that, In New York, it was nice to have something I knew...

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    1. Alas I find treadmills a bit dull; I have the attention-span of a gnat, so I need an ever-changing scenery to keep me entertained...and running! (Still jealous of your trip to NYC, Muriel.)

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  7. You are such a gifted writer, i just went for a lunchtime run around a beautiful lake next to the Bois de Boulogne and i couldn't describe my adventure as well as you did above!!! Good for you running outside! I have a gym membership, and love all the classes, but normally the treadmill is the only machine i can stay on for at least half an hour...but I have to say I'm really enjoying running outside and would like to keep it up, even when the rain hits Paris : ) I'm off to read your post "Down with Starbucks"!

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    1. Ah, LouLou, you're too kind! Thank you. There's something really wonderful about running through a city, the way everything around you is constantly changing and you catch tiny scenes of urban life as you complete your workout...but, yep, it's probably less pleasant than the gym when it rains. And the least said about freezing cold runs with ice on the ground the better!

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  8. I really enjoyed reading this!
    Would love you to check out my latest outfit post :)
    Happy Tuesday Hun xoxo
    http://www.intotheblonde.com/

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  9. Great story! You almost made me like rain ... almost :)

    Regards,
    inventory clerks London

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