Category Archives: London

246. London Marathon 2012 – every single step: running for Macmillan Cancer Support

a tree on the heath blackheath london england april by Julie70 flickr1: Endangered species
The vista is all but empty now, across the expanses of the open plain ahead. The sky is blue and cloudless, the temperature cool in the early morning as the huge animal lumbers slowly past me.

I keep walking evenly, as calmly as I can, trying not to distract the rhino’s attention at this moment of maximum peril, as it sets out upon its annual trek.

Behind me, I can hear the approaching patter of many more feet upon the ground, growing inexorably nearer with every second. The veneer of calm I’ve been carrying since before the break of dawn seems false and fragile now, as the adrenaline rises in my throat.

The months and weeks of single-minded preparation, the hours of planning and even this familiar landscape offer little comfort as I stand in trepidation at the beginning of the journey. Almost in a moment, the chasers are on my heels.

And yet, I keep on walking. It’s a vow I made long years ago, for here and now one rash move can destroy it all. No matter the temptation, I will not run a single step until I really have to.

A moment later, the wave of pursuers breaks over me. The rhino is trotting frantically not far ahead as a hundred fleet-footed gazelles and antelopes bound by. I furl my brow in resignation and don my cap. Then I check my laces, hitch my socks and straighten my green shirt before the pain begins.

A bright flash of sun glints closer as I take what must surely be my final walking strides. The sight that greets me next stretches all due reason. The beast is in full flight ahead, huge head lolling wildly as he sets his eyes on other prey. Two figures clad all in shining white are streaking past with that wicked horn bobbing menacingly just a single pace behind.

london marathon 2012 starwars trooper c spoiltrottengiftscoukI allow myself a smile and take one last step across the fateful line of hope and fear. Right before my eyes, the rhino is chasing two Star Wars Imperial troopers in full battle dress, all along the road. I click my watch, and hit the tarmac running.

My 2012 London Marathon has started, and anything could happen now.
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245. London to Brighton, and back

Well, almost. London to Brighton to Guildford, anyway.

wey and arun canal near billingshurst west sussex england by roadsofstoneTravelling home with the bike on the car roof was a comfortable way to rest weary legs after the London to Brighton Bike Ride. And then, somewhere along the bleak A23 south of Crawley, I saw them.

Lone cylists, still carrying their London to Brighton numbers, pedalling along the bleak dual carriageway and working their way through the late afternoon across Sussex. Heading north and back to London.

The idea was born — to complete the 54 miles of the London to Brighton Bike Ride, and then glide (or limp) home to Guildford afterwards. That would make a long day’s ride of perhaps 100 miles in all.

And the last four years, I’ve done that — although on different routes each time.
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244. A day in November – Occupy London 2011

(… with apologies to Sebastian Faulks).

One day in November 2011. Two views of the City of London.

1) St Paul’s Cathedral, from the top floor of a major European bank;

st pauls cathedral london england november morning city bank view by roadsofstone

2) The Occupy London protest. Down to Earth, in St Paul’s Churchyard.

grow the real economy occupy london protest st pauls cathedral england roadsofstone

Truly, we live in interesting, fascinating times. When distance and detail each yields its own perspective.
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230. Autumn leaves and cobalt sky – 2010 London Royal Parks Half Marathon

ten ten ten westminster bridge royal parks half marathon london by roadsofstone

It’s ten past ten on 10.10.10 and I’m running across Westminster Bridge. The sun has just come out onto a perfect autumn day and Sunday mornings don’t come much more memorable than this.

royal parks half marathon london 2010 by roadsofstoneLondon has hosted a famous marathon every year since Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen held hands beneath Big Ben to share the first race victory one rainy day in March 1981. And now this soon-to-be Olympic city of ours has a world-class half marathon as well.

I head back along the bridge and east beside the Thames. There’s a soft breeze blowing leaves along the sunlit road under a clearing October sky. Across a silver slice of river, the London Eye is turning gracefully. The Embankment is my spiritual running home, and I’m very glad to be here.
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219. Santorini, Greece: the Minoan eruption

Monolithos was four fisherman huts along the water,
a miniature villa closed for years, and our farmhouse
a hundred feet behind. Hot fields of barley, grapes,
and tomatoes stretching away three flat miles
to where the rest of the island used to be.

— Not Part of Literature: from Monolithos, by Jack Gilbert (1982)

morning in ancient thera santorini greece by roadsofstoneA cold January in London is always the perfect time to head inside. Sunday finds us at the British Museum, gazing enthralled at a small statue which transports us to a different world entirely.

Inside the case, an acrobat is jumping over the horns of a charging bull — a feat of agility captured in Bronze Age craftsmanship more than three and a half thousand years ago.

minoan bull jumping acrobat crete greece british museum london england by roadsofstoneThe Minoans who made the statue lived around the eastern Mediterranean for well over a thousand years.

Settling from 2600 BC around Knossos, near modern Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete, they built rich palaces which were destroyed and rebuilt several times after 1700 BC, before their sites were taken over by the Myceneans around 1420 BC.

* * * * *

kamari beach santorini greece by roadsofstoneIt’s early morning and the sun is already hot across the blackness of the beach. To the south, the road snakes its way up the limestone cliff to Ancient Thera. It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but the climb of Mesa Vouno will kill me long before I get there.

I head north along the shore, with the Aegean Sea on my right, and work my way slowly out of Kamari. The strip is quiet at this time of day, with just a few old folks up in search of breakfast. The rest of the resort is sleeping off last night.

The deserted boutique hotels and bars fall swiftly behind me, and soon I reach the end of town and the start of Greece.
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217. The Guitar Hero and the Gypsy – Fleetwood Mac live in London

night at the wembley arena london england by roadsofstoneLightning strikes — maybe once, maybe twice
And it lights up the night

Fleetwood Mac – May 1982

The lights dim, the cymbals beat, and the guitar begins.

Right from the word go, there’s an energy about this — a foot-stamping, driving rhythm from front left of the stage. It defines Monday Morning, the opening song, and it runs all through the show.

lindsey buckingham fleetwood mac live 2009 by bengarland flickrAnd the truth is that I’ve listened to Fleetwood Mac for two decades and more, but it never struck me until now.

Lindsey Buckingham is a rock star. There’s just no doubt about it.

My kids know Fleetwood Mac mainly from Guitar Hero, which features the iconic solo from Go Your Own Way. And suddenly that seems appropriate, for Guitar Hero is exactly what he is.
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214. Three years of Roads of Stone

past and present high street rye east sussex england by roadsofstoneThings have been slow around here, for a little while now, and in more ways than one.

I’ve had less time for running, and less still for writing. I’ve been unfit, distracted and slow.

And yet — there’s been real progress, too, hidden not far beneath the surface.

Our 95,000 visitors this year may have found only 22 new posts to read, but it’s been a momentous year of change, both in London and abroad.

the old mill horsham sussex england by acirfa virtual tourist comThe great crash formed the backdrop to the year, but it was in America that destiny was decided.

A changing political landscape marked the 2008 US election and the new opportunities that brings, for America and the whole world beyond.
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