There is so much to be said for getting out of the city and into nature. After a busy few weeks with little time to ourselves, this morning we packed the mountain bikes into the car, selected a place close to Brussels where we hadn’t been before (Gaasbeek) and drove there. The weather was a bit on the glum side for mid-July, but nonetheless it was a joy to roam around the countryside for an hour and a half, cycling past fields of corn and poppies, overtaking people travelling by horse and cart, stopping to admire miniature ponies and baby donkeys, and exploring the impressive grounds of Gaasbeek Castle on foot before heading back to the car.
It’s terrifying to think how easy it would be to never step outside the confines of city life; to subsist on a schedule of work, sleep, the (very) occasional gym visit, drink with friends or snatched moment of downtime. If we never take time to break away, physically and mentally, from the routine, or unplug ourselves from our draining digital and work lives, we risk missing out on the best things life has to offer. Being in nature, even if it’s just the local park surrounded by trees, affords a type of freedom – mental and physical – that is hard to replicate by any other means. It gives us space to daydream, to switch off, to exist without the myriad pressures that weigh us down. It helps us to be the best version of ourselves, untainted by thoughts of what we ‘should’ or ‘must’ do, open to experiencing the moment we are in and being content with that and nothing more.
So here’s to Nature. May none of us become immune to her wonderful healing ways.
Three months ago when I started my current job in London Bridge it crossed my mind I should consider cycling to work. Not only would it be a good way to fit in some extra exercise, it would also mean avoiding the horrifically busy Northern line in the mornings, which surely had to be a bonus? I wasn’t all that keen on turning up at work drenched in sweat and having to get changed, but thought that ultimately the benefits would outweigh the costs.
But then I started watching people cycling out of Clapham in the mornings, and observed them in their droves when I arrived at London Bridge. And I became hyper sensitive of all the news stories involving cycling accidents. And then I remembered that two of my good friends have had accidents on their bikes in the past two years – one serious, which would have almost certainly killed him had he not been wearing a helmet (which was cleaved in two by the impact – horrific).
Whilst the idea of cycling to and from work and avoiding public transport does appeal (well done on the PR Boris), I’m ultimately not prepared to run (or cycle) the gauntlet when it comes to my safety. I’m the first to admit my road sense isn’t great (when I was nine I cycled around a roundabout the wrong way and nearly gave my mum a heart attack, and whilst I’d like to say I’ve got better since I might just be lying), but even if I was a savvy cyclist it’s the others on the road that are the main danger.
The sheer volume of cyclists on London’s roads during rush hour is terrifying, not to mention the gung ho way in which many of them behave. Only this morning when the pedestrian light was green and I began to cross one cyclist shot right through and nearly knocked me over. Though that’s not to say it’s always the cyclists who behave badly. Car and lorry drivers often exhibit such a flagrant disregard for the lives of cyclists and motorcyclists when driving around London that it’s hardly surprising so many people get knocked off their bikes each year.
On balance, therefore, I’ve decided to stick to the tube for the time being. As much as I hate being face to armpit in a sweaty train carriage, I can at least be confident my brains will stay in my head instead of being splattered on the pavement due to a moment’s carelessness.