The Palm Tree
I hate outdoor activities. I am a big fan of being indoors, staying indoors, and only venturing out for food, or, if the weather is inclement, not venturing out at all, happily staying inside to starve, secure in the knowledge that everyone else is outdoors in that weather, and I am indoors, in my blanket. It is even a bit of a wrench for me to make the short dash across the quad to the library, although that could be because they have a terrifying set of revolving doors, and the zips of my rucksack make an incredibly loud jingly jangly sound which will probably lead to me being assassinated by a librarian any day now.
It is little wonder that the Great British Bake Off appeals to me so much, nor am I surprised that my favourite book is essentially a book about a man having a nice hot bath and then not leaving his house for two hundred pages.*
All this to say that I was as surprised as any of you to find myself, for the past few days, not only outdoors, but actually taking exercise outside of the comfortable confines of an indoor gym. I have taken to running along the tow path of the canal which runs right below my window, and I have actually found myself quite enjoying it.
There were a couple of things which took some getting used to; the strange feeling of the fresh air in my lungs, the fact that I had to be constantly on the alert for bicycles (and also other joggers who overtook me with embarassing frequency), and the fact that I can no longer use ‘I’ve been to the gym’ as an excuse to immediately make stealthy vending machine purchases (because it’s a tow path and there is an astounding lack of vending machines.)
All this aside, and having negotiated the descent to the tow path itself (just because I can see it from my room doesn’t mean that I don’t have to cross two roads, trek for miles, negotiate a small footbridge and drag myself through an aggressive thicket of brambles to actually reach it,) I set off, feeling immensely smug and proud of myself. I was a little dissapointed to discover that the way I run on treadmills (so unevenly that one of my feet is ten times louder than the other and my fellow gym goers have often been prompted to look at me in confusion) is actually just the way I run, and yes, I will probably always sound as if I have a bionic leg. This aside, I ran for almost an hour (twenty minutes is nearly an hour) and really enjoyed it. It is so beautiful all the way along the canal, and I suppose that as much as I enjoy a good old fashioned indoor gym, you couldn’t ask for a more picturesque setting than a canal in the late evening sunshine, complete with houseboats, stone footbridges, and the odd can of Special Brew or ‘call for a good time’ graffitti, just so you don’t forget that you’re in London.
At the end of this towpath is a small pub called the Palm Tree. It looks as if it was once the end of a terrace of houses, but nowadays it stands alone, a little way off from the canal. Following a recommendation, Tom, Imogen, Scott and I set off to check out this tiny little pub, and it turned out to be an amazing venue, one of those secret places which only locals know about. Inside, it is a tiny, unintentionally ‘retro’, chintzy, adorable place, crowded around a small bar complete with a sign proudly proclaiming ‘we have now switched to metric measurements for shots’. There was a live band comprised mainly of elderly men playing and singing jazz with amazing skill and dedication. I had such a good time dancing around, and managed to end up at the bar chatting to one of the jazz singers; a lovely old man who urged me to ‘try and keep the barmaid’s attention’ or else ‘she just wanders around, and never serves anyone… It’s like a scene from The Shining!’ I joked that he better keep his voice down or they really would never serve him, and he went off chuckling to himself ‘they’d probably just bar me… again!’
In between training for the olympics and listening to jazz music in the middle of nowhere, you will be pleased to hear that I am working hard on getting a University education, and am getting incredibly excited about poetry and reading theory and all that good stuff.
I hope you’ve had a good week, too.
*Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger. It’s actually a fantastic book.