Hat’s Off To London’s Sporty Masses

What’s with all the leggings, guys?

Is it just me, or do 90% of Londoners look like they’ve just stepped out of a yoga class? This trend — known as ‘athleisure’ — is basically everyone putting on some high-end leggings and some labelled trainers, as if they’re heading for a good old workout at some fancy gym — even if they’re not. I mean, just take a look around the tube carriage and count the number of people that seem like they’re en route to/heading home from some sort of physical activity….

Of course, I can’t make any assumptions here. Perhaps more of the city’s population really ARE getting fitter, and are simply donning their Lululemon gear because they actually HAVE just finished a HIIT session, been on a run, or done a few miles on the treadmill. Great. Good on you — hats off.

I’d say, however, that the majority are wearing these ‘athleisure’ clothes as a fashion statement. Don’t get me wrong,  comfort-wise, this is a grand idea — shunning the tight-buttoned jeans for some stretchy leggings is surely one of life’s great pleasures? However, this is something I personally do when getting back home in the evening –when I shed the days stresses and get into my comfy clothes — rather than out in public, where VPLs (amongst other things) are a real risk factor.

My bet, though, is that the people who have actually been to do some fitness session are not flaunting their gymwear on the tube. The sweaty reality of a workout, all baggy-kneed leggings and oversized T-shirts, is not at all glamorous, and is likely to be quickly hidden away post-shower in favour of the aforementioned jeans. Those people sitting opposite you looking pretty normal? Who’s to say they haven’t beaten their personal best in terms of weight lifting today? I think we are quick to judge people from the outside — and increasingly so in this age of social media. We may look at one person and think that if they look sporty, they must be fit and healthy; whereas another person, perhaps getting stuck into a post-workout donut en route home, changed back into their jeans, may appear to us as ‘unfit’. Crazy assumptions to make when we know nothing about these people.

Of course seeing all these perfectly made-up girls with their designer gymwear doesn’t make me feel like trying this hyped-up fitness malarkey out, for fear of looking like a scruffy amateur in my Primark leggings and boyfriend’s T-shirt. Perhaps I have the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps London really is a hub of fitness, activity and sport, and I simply have not get the memo that I should be joining in. Or maybe I just haven’t got the right uniform to join the club.

This is London: Change Gonna Come

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I’m going to say it plain and simple: I don’t like change. They say change is good, and maybe for certain people, at certain times, it is. But when something comes along and disrupts you just when you are feeling settled and comfortable, when things are safe and familiar, I just want change to buzz off.

Imagine my horror, my utter dread when I found out that change was going to happen – a change I had utterly no control over. This was a change governed by the Gods, the ever-powerful TFL.

When I discovered that ‘essential maintenance works’ were going to be carried out on Holborn station from August 2016 until late 2017 I applauded Transport for London’s recognition of the much-needed improvements. They were making an effort, I thought; they are trying to make our lives easier. Bravo. And then I read the signs properly, as in stopping, taking my headphones off, and absorbing the words.

Picture my well and truly gasted flabber when I realised that between 7:30 and 10 am, Monday to Friday, Holborn station would be exit only, with no Central and Piccadilly line interchange. ‘But how’, I asked the big red sign, as if it was the fountain of all knowledge, or at least half as clever as Siri, ‘how will I get to work?’

I did it people, I had to accept that there had to be change. Hard as it was, I properly changed my route: I had to venture into unknown territory and take different tubes, with different people, and different journey times. However, I have to say, not attempting to squeeze onto a Central Line train in rush hour was somewhat of a relief. Whereas my usual journey was choc-a-bloc with suited city workers, abounding with laptop bags and Costa coffees, my new changed one seems slightly calmer.

Taking the Piccadilly and Jubilee lines feels less ‘commuter scramble’ than my original Central and Northern combination. Getting a seat is almost guaranteed, and not once was I knocked by a wayward backpack, or did I find myself with a take-out latte spilling on my arm.

This change in route may actually be a good thing.

Sometimes, it seems, a change comes and hits you like a wet sponge, and you just have to take it: you never know, you may end up feeling suitably refreshed afterwards…

So maybe I am not completely opposed to change. But in future, I’d like my change to have an advance warning and a guaranteed refund policy should I wish to return it. Opportunity to exchange my change for a less changed change would be much appreciated.

Coffee Encounters

 

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Just because London is a vast and busy city, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t meetings and conversations that are resonant of village life…

 

It was a Monday morning – generally, I reckon, the nation’s least favourite day. Especially, I would have thought, a Londoner’s least favourite; cultural endeavours and weekend lie ins are abruptly brought to an end by a commuter train full of Metro papers and backpacks in faces, and another working week is started.

My Monday morning, however, was spent drinking coffee and writing essays, a core part of student life. Caffeine and work goes hand in hand like the Hammersmith and City Line and delays– one without the other somehow seems absurd. So it was not unusual, not out of the ordinary, to be set up in a café with an open laptop, books on the table, and a caffeinated beverage in hand.

The disadvantage to this independent set-up, however, is that it is a rather solitary exercise. Of course, this is often conducive to a decent essay, but sometimes it is social, useful even, to have a co-worker to share coffee runs with, or mind your station when you need to make a toilet trip.

A coffee down, I found myself wishing I had someone to mind my bags and laptop whilst I could nip to the loo. To my right was a quiet middle-aged man, nose in a newspaper and a toastie on the table. His plain black turban seemed rather conservative in comparison to his brightly coloured patterned jumper, which looked like something an aunt may have knitted. Interrupting him from his run-down of the day’s news, I kindly asked him if he would mind keeping an eye on my things for 5 minutes, to which he said ‘of course’.

On returning, I thanked the man, who nodded at me and then absorbed himself once more in his newspaper, by this time nearing the back sport pages. He then folded up his paper and turned to me. ‘One question’, he said. ‘How did you know to trust me? I could have run off with your laptop, taken your bags… You don’t know me’.

‘True’, I replied. ‘I don’t know you. But somehow I felt that I could trust you – you seemed content, quiet, and have a friendly face. Of course it was a risk, but if we never take risks, we won’t get anywhere in life’.

‘I feel touched’, the man continued, ‘you have made my day. How lovely to know that I seem like a trustworthy person. In such a big and busy city, people in London always expect the worst – there is not enough trust. I am going to mention this on my chat show tomorrow, this meeting’.

After talking to the man, it turns out he is a chat show host on the Sikh Channel, and opens each episode with an anecdote, of which our encounter would be one of them. On leaving, he gave me his card, the newspaper he’d finished, and offered to buy me a coffee (to which I politely declined, thinking ahead that this would induce more toilet trips, and therefore finding more laptop-watchers).

‘Thank you for trusting me’, he said, ‘and have a splendid day’. Even in a place as bustling, dangerous and hectic as London, there are glimpses of humanity, instances of conversation, and encounters that may never happen again, yet add a certain smile to your day. This was one of them.

Changes: New Year, London and Bowie

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(picture courtesy of V&A)

 

January, they say, is a depressing month. Christmas is over, money is tight and strict regimes are being imposed to tackle the festive overindulgence. Personally, I am taking the ‘Dry January’ message to mean that this month, my alcohol choices will be mainly Dry Gin. The ‘clean-eating’ trend the masses are adhering to this year also seems to me, quite sensible – if dinner is eaten in the bath, chance of inevitable spillages on clothes is eliminated. This is what they call a win win situation.

But having got used to the lights, sparkles and decorations, London looks fairly naked. Christmas away from the capital begins as a novelty, and then you realise that actually, being able to get a pint of milk in two minutes, have decent coffee on every street corner, and not be affected by insane amounts flooding is pretty appealing. In line with the depressing fact that is the rise in travel fares, a bleak sense of ‘back to work’ reverberates in the tube carriages –  the only vague source of consolation is the fact that Tottenham Court Road station is finally open (it’s the small things people).

And to top it all off, two of the country’s most talented stars sadly passed away this week: David Bowie and Alan Rickman, both at 69, sadly lost their battles to cancer. This just may be the icing on the cake, the thing to tip those already struggling with the new gym routine, the lack of alcohol, and the utterly depressing weather, completely over the edge. No wine, no sun and now THIS?  The reaction to Alan Rickman’s and particularly David Bowie’s deaths  has been phenomenal, especially in the capital: perhaps because Bowie was a Londoner through and through; perhaps because he made such an impact on music; probably, too because Bowie showed that to stray from convention and to define yourself as an individual was not only possible, but admirable and inspirational. I had the pleasure of visiting the V&A’s ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition a few years back, and to this day I think it is one of the best museum exhibitions I’ve seen.  Not only did I see the epic Ziggy Stardust bodysuit, on show were also handwritten lyrics and even Bowie’s diary entries, offering a snapshot into the innermost thoughts of the superstar. It was clear from ‘David Bowie Is’ that there isn’t a great deal that David Bowie Isn’t , or, now, that David Bowie Wasn’t.

On Monday, Brixton, where David was born, was awash with fans who wanted to show their respects to the Starman. An area which (for now, at least) exists as an un-gentrified hub of culture and colour that still maintains a sense of the ‘real London’ was suddenly centre stage and thriving. Indeed, the star and his achievements are very much tied up with his life in the city: there is even rumour of the fourth plinth being dedicated to Bowie. We can but hope…

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Not only Londoners, but the world, were and still are, devastated. Having heard the news, I couldn’t help bring it up when I met a friend at London’s Barbican Centre.

‘Aren’t you really upset about Bowie?’ I asked her, ‘I can’t believe he’s died!’

‘Not really’, she answered. ‘I never knew the man. He’s died, but my life’s not changed. I can still admire him, enjoy his music… What’s the point of wasting time being upset about someone we didn’t know – we should be celebrating him, and just continuing to listen to his songs’.

I have to say, these are words of wisdom: our lives are none the poorer for having lost an icon like Bowie. Of course when someone loses their life, especially to cancer, it is no doubt an intensely sad event: but shouldn’t we just be grateful that Bowie made his music in the first place? The fact that we all have the benefit of being able to listen to his songs, enjoy his films, just as before, should be at the forefront. The world may have lost a London born superstar, but this is not cause for tears: this is time to say ‘Let’s Dance’.