There are few things more curious (or glorious) than waking up in a room not yours, and through those sleep befuddled eyes spotting a gorgeous (Italian?) racer perched like some stately bird of yore (though less threatening) upon not a bust of Pallas, but rather a bookshelf stuffed full of what I am sure were other interesting goodies.
The owner “has style”, as the lady in question’s flatmate stated when I commented on such a wondrous machine and its positioning. To my mind it is nigh on impossible to disagree, and would also add strength and impressive reach to her other attributes – for I know that I would have struggled to pop them thar wheels up there. It was a throw away comment, but one that does sum up the owner of bicycle and room most aptly. Add to that a seemingly endless supply of oatcakes about her person, a fine stable of steel steeds, superb disposition, and really you have a true blue, who I hope is also an understanding soul who will not mind me staying or writing about her room and its furnishings here…
Thinking how wonderful it would be to wake to my machine peering down upon me from a wooden throne, I pedaled off on a brisk and drizzly Valentine’s Day to meet a pair of old chums, one of who had acquired a mighty rock on their wedding finger.
Upon the sun strewn Southbank, we admired the rock and made plans to head to the Charing Cross Road where dwells Foyles, that once great bookstore that housed and provided employment to immigrant workers and aspirational artists. I fear those days are either long gone or just rumour, but the idea of living in such a wondrous place populated by virgin untouched works awaiting my touch on midnight prowls, as sirens wailed along the Soho streets often appealed, so I do hope it is true.
In keeping with the day’s theme, Foyles had adopted a high-brow approach to the festive occasion. Rather than offering your usual sap in the form of 100 best loved romantic poems, they had on display the lovers of literature from ages past and present, offering some sort of deal should you buy one author with their lover…there was Sartre and Simone, Miller and Nin, Auster and Hustvedt and a whole harvest of others whose names and relationships I knew not before, nor now as they swiftly passed through one eye and then the other.
As an additional touch, as I was to learn, a red rose with a thorny stem was gifted with each purchase, and one was handed onto me with the copy of The Passport by Herta Muller which I picked up (a Fate inspired choice, for the cover features a fine looking steed in the mist and I had already chanced on its beginning pages upon the nightstand where I had rested the previous night). This rose was not to be accepted by companions, who were similarly loaded with their purchases – and with their suggestion to pass the love on, I footled on with the rose peeking from my helmet like a pert prickly snail antenna.
The affect of a man with a flower stuck in his headgear as he weaves through traffic shedding petals clearly amuses and pleases the average Londoner. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my reception was positively glowing from the hordes flowing through the West End. People would point, stare and smile, all of which makes one most self conscious…one fellow even pointed his lens at me in the most obvious manner, so I struck a pose and presumably ruined his carefully crafted moment.
It all reached a head upon Jermyn street, when a murder of elderly ladies dressed in black commented upon my accessory with sweetly intended words of “Oh Romance cannot be dead” and “I hope she is worth it”, to which I dutifully responded with a positive assuring them that she was.
However after they left, I had no idea who “she” – or at least the “she” who the rose should belong to – was.
The first person I tried was busy with friends, and though I toyed with the idea of leaving it with her porter, I was sure it would cause embarrassment and a’kicking of ankles upon our next meet, the next was in Scotland and incommunicado as were many others. The final person I tried out of desperation to relieve myself of this terrible burden said it would be entirely inappropriate as she had a boyfriend (and my book – but that is another matter) but thanked me for the offer. Oh if only she had known it was a last ditch effort to rid myself of this flower that had me as the romantic fool on a bicycle in central London…
Instead I ended up pedaling back to my Hill and placing it in an empty ouzo bottle, gifting it to my flat mate, who was charmed till she learned the story of its origins. And there it still remains…