Friday, 9 December 2011

The New New Life

So here i am in London. I freely admit that i'm not much of a soothsayer, but i never saw that coming! It seems simultaneously a very long time since i interviewed for a job in St Andrews, and also about five minutes ago. In the last year, i have gone from having a sensible, stable and perhaps most importantly a permanent job with a tech firm in the Cambridge area, to living "proper" village life in rural Fife on a 3-year postdoc contract, to living in suburban London and working on the UCL campus. It's been a whirlwind, i can tell you. Would i change anything. Honestly, probably no.

It's been five weeks since Rachel and I moved south, although she spent a month down here ahead of me "sofa-surfing" with friends, and trying to find us somewhere to live. Five weeks has passed so fast it's not even funny. I have made new friends where i work, caught up with old ones i haven't seen in years, and discovered that it is possible to exercise in London without getting run over, stabbed, or one and then the other. The hills of Kent will likely be my new playground, and although they lack some of the grandeur i have become accustomed to in Scotland, they can provide a stern test of less-than-race fit legs.

My last races up north were the wondefully named "Hairy Coo" xc race at Comrie Croft, run by the equally-wonderfully-named Drovers Tryst, which was run off on a tough little purpose-built course in very Scottish (muddy and with horizontal rain) conditions, followed by a longer looped ride around Glen Tarkie on the sunday. The latter managed to wash the mud out of my eyes from the former, but unfortunately i got a stomach bug from all the grit that had me laid up for a couple of days. I finished 10th in the Hairy Coo, which was won by north-of-the-border stalwart Gareth Montgomerie, and was in 3rd place in the Sunday marathon when i was mis-directed, and ended up doing an extra lap of Glen Tarkie. Ooops.

To blow away the moving cobwebs, Rachel and I decided to sign up for the first round of the Brass Monkeys enduro. It was a total change of scene compared to my previous experiences, there were hundreds of people on the start line, the course was dry, fast and twisty as opposed to being up hill and down dale, and it was nigh impossible to go the wrong way! The general standard of riding was noticeably different too, with southerners clearly favouring fitness over skill in their training, as bottle necks at every tricky section on the first lap proved! Perhaps it was the sheer number of people out on course, and the extra speed that you could get out of your bike on the less epic terrain, but people seemed less friendly and less inclined to let faster riders through too, apparently one guy even challenged someone to a fight for daring to pass! None of these things have ever bothered me much in the past about racing in England, so i must just be oversensitive having had an entirely different experience in Scotland! I tootled around not-really-racing with my lack of fitness on display for all the world to see, and came in a lap down on former teamie Tim Dunford who took a commanding lead in his new Cannondale colours. Rachel got to stand on the box in her race, coming in 3rd and obviously showing less ill effects from moving than me (i like to think....)!

So we're settled. Home is where your bikes rest. Life in London seems simultaneously alien and very familiar; there are unwritten codes to everything from sitting on the bus to cycle commuting that i am only beginning to learn. I keep making the mistake of smiling at people in the street, a hangover from a past life in Arncroach, only to have them avert their eyes from the obvious lunatic. In time, i'll get to grips with it. As Baz Luhrmann says "Live in London once, but leave before it makes you hard" -{Deleted take}.

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