Sunday, November 18, 2007

Life In The Bus Lane

So I have been temping a couple of weeks now and the life of an office manager is actually quite interesting, although in this office midweek is rather slow as most of the consultants are away on assignment and so I was often alone stalking the corridors and talking to myself (so at least no change there then). I won't bore you with the details of the job, instead it has been the getting to and from work which will be the topic of my discussion. It seems that getting from A to B plays a far greater role in our daily lives than I had previously supposed, and isn't solely the preserve of travellers.

As I mentioned before I had decided to go green and use the bike, although my reasons for switching were more prosaic and centred around money and an increase in sleep time. There are, of course, other advantages to cycling. Personally I derive great pleasure in speeding past single-occupancy motorists who are stuck in jams and inching along nose to tail at a walking pace - it gives me a great amount of satisfaction and makes me feel not a little smug, especially as I weave in between the gridlock maze. I am lucky in that my route takes me through Richmond Park, London's largest urban park, complete with its own herd of royal deer. You don't really see them in the morning when the park is also open to traffic, but as the road gates are closed at dusk the park becomes a surreal cycling experience. As you enter, the lights that are omnipresent in the city abruptly stop and you enter into a surprisingly heavy darkness. And although you don't have to worry about getting run over by a car, you have to be extra vigilant for the deer that wander across the road and seemingly jump out at you in the darkness. And off in the distance lies London with a red haze from the city lights hanging above it as if it were on fire, obscuring the stars which are replaced by the planes coming in to land at Heathrow. The darkness is so deep that on my first foray homewards through the park I mistakenly took a wrong turning and ended up in Roehampton, thereby adding some 10km to my trip (suffice to say that it is not a mistake I am likely to make in the future!).

There are drawbacks too, of course, as there are to everything, the most notable being the delayed action saddle soreness (which I am feeling as I'm typing these very words) and stressed muscles that are unused to the exertion. The weather is also getting noticeably colder, which I feel particularly keenly as I set off in the morning when my body still isn't warmed up. The cold wind in my face also causes my nose to run so that I am always cycling with a permanent drop of watery phlegm dangling like some liquid bungee jumper, on the tip of my nose. Still, a small price to pay for trying to be carbon neutral.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fire Works

I'm particularly fond of Autumn in the UK. Although it's not particularly warm (there's frost on the pavements in the morning already) I love the blue skies, the crisp morning air, the changing colours of the leaves and the eerie morning mist (though I'm rarely ever up to catch that) that adds a touch of magic to otherwise humdrum surroundings. It's also the season for explosions and fireworks, what with Guy Fawkes' night on the 5th closely followed by Diwali there was a steadily increasing nightly cacophony of bangs, whizzes and explosions culminating with Bonfire Night itself, when walking home in the darkness due to a local power cut I felt like I was in the Blitz.

The past couple of weeks have been rather busy for me. The most important thing to have happened to me has been my recent change of work status - I am now employed. Before we get out the champagne though it is only a temporary job to tide me over whilst I look for something more substantial. Just as it is the world over, it's not what you know but who you know, managing to get a job standing in for the office manager at my brother's office. It's not the most glamourous of jobs and neither am I earning big bucks, but it's better than nothing and the work itself is rather varied and so I'm not getting bored. The worst part of the job is the commute. Although I don't live that far, due to rush hour traffic it takes over 90mins for a journey that ordinarily takes less than 30mins by car. The trains aren't much quicker either as I have to go half way into London before getting a connecting train. So instead I have decided to requisition my brother's bike and cycle into work, thereby saving money, getting some much-needed exercise and allowing me to sleep for 30mins more in the morning (priceless!).

So that has been taking up all of this week, but the week before I got a surprise message from one of my ex-pupils who was going out not far from me and so we met up for a few beers. Although Rishi was by no means a star pupil and annoyed me occasionally with his sometime slack attitude to his studies he was always a genuinely likeable and cheery guy. So it was with great curiosity that I arranged to meet up with him to see how much three years of university had changed him, if at all. I was glad to find that he had lost none of his fun-loving charm but that he had gained in maturity and responsibility. It was particularly heartwarming for me when Rishi reminded me of advice I had given him back then, which he promptly disregarded, and that he has now come to see as pertinent and useful.

Also, following on from my Persian rap experience a few weeks back I went to see the animated film Persepolis, about young girl's memories of the Iranian Revolution and her time growing up under the Islamic regime, at the London film festival. Now it seems to me that animated features are viewed with a certain condescension in the English-speaking world, which is a shame as it can be an unbelievably rich and evocative medium with as much emotion and pathos as films with live actors (the works of Hayao Miyazaki and the animated sequences of Alan Parker's The Wall spring immediately to mind) and also allows a film to exceed the physical limits of reality. Be that as it may I can only recommend the film which not only gives a short, yet insightful, view of the political situation that led up to the Revolution but also the absurdity of the current regime, all the while maintaining a personal perspective and allowing odd moments of humour to pop in.