Well it had to happen sooner or later, even to an expert eventist like me, that things wouldn't go exactly to plan (well actually no, not on my watch, this never happens!) My good friend Dawn announced that she was going to be down in London and would have some time to spend with me on Saturday. Great, she could join one of my adventures. I had already drawn a 'sport/leisure' card before Dawn said "ooh I'm up for an adventure, but remember, nothing too sporty!" Ummm....well my fate dictated challenge was VOGA! For the uninitiated (me, and Dawn) this is yoga inspired by Madonna's Vogue and 80s music in general. Woo hoo, even Dawn was slightly excited - strike a pose! Even the fact that the class was taking place at Haggerston didn't quell our enthusiasm, and neither did the fact that it was peeing with rain, it was indoors after all and in a rather lovely little venue called 'The Proud Archivist' (hold that lovely thought - it may change). However, as time wore on the class was pushed back by half an hour (and had already been changed by an hour before we arrived), and so we decided to partake in some coffee and cake. Not exactly in the spirit of exercise but what to do to pass the time in a cafe venue? The meeting that was happening in the room we were going to be Voga-ing in slowly emptied and even more slowly (make that painfully slowly!) tables and chairs were removed one by one. Dawn could feel my eventist (and caffeine fuelled) frustration as I suggested we help clear the room. But no, now 1hour and 45mins after the original scheduled time, we were told to " Speak to the Events Manager to see what has happened" Apparently Dawn winced at the words 'Events Manager' and looked at me as my face adopted a scathing look. Yes, the venue had double booked the room. Unacceptable. I won't dwell on that because actually, the lovely Voga teacher, Rose, explained that she was so sorry, this had happened to her before at this venue and offered us a free class somewhere else. Determined not to let this spoil our time together, we headed over to Highbury and Islington's Upper Street (nicknamed 'Supper Street') to give ourselves a different kind of adventure. So, completing our little gallery of food and drink below we have Prosecco at the lovely Hoxley and Porter and a platter of treats at Nem Nem Vietnamese restaurant. A very different but definitely enjoyable afternoon all round....although I'm still not convinced that Dawn didn't engineer the Voga cancellation. Next time my friend, remember we have credit there, so it is an experience to look out for in a future Secret History...
But not entirely content with that as an adventure per se, I thought I would share some other, not unexpected, but certainly new experiences that I have done in the past two weeks. Starting with the inaugural performance of 'Los Perdidos' (for this set comprising of Denise, Sandra and Lee) playing at the Pena Flamenca de Londres in Pimlico. I have never been so nervous, but we managed to perform a Panaderos and a Bulerias, each lasting an epic 6 minutes. Yes, there is indeed a video of it which I may share at some point soon! But for now, just look at the concentration on my face! Photos courtesy of my great friend Andy Catlin.
My other excitement from the past couple of weeks was one which stemmed from my previous Secret Life adventure of paddle boarding (not water boarding as my mum mistakenly called it). This was a paddle from Putney to Kew, watching the fireworks, and has been a real highlight of my month. Not only were the fireworks amazing from this perspective, but it is the first time I have done a night time paddle and it was so calm and quiet. With of course with the ever constant fear of falling in, this time into black November water.
'Normal' (whatever that may be) Secret Life adventures will resume next week!
It's a great title isn't it! I can't claim the creativity for it though as it's actually the name of the fantastic shop which was host to my latest adventure. A bike maintenance course! As a keen cyclist I've often felt frustrated at my lack of skills in tackling my own repairs. If I ever have a puncture I struggle for ages, shouting and swearing by a London roadside, and never perform repairs, but carry spare inner tubes. I also had an extremely frustrating experience trying to change my brake blocks once and admitted defeat and took my bike to my local repair shop. Look Mum No Hands offer a series of workshops, and as this was a beginners course I was hopeful that everyone would be in the same boat. As soon as I arrived at their Old Street shop I was immediately put at ease as I was greeted by Digger, our tutor for the day. LMNH (as it is known) is such a cult meeting point for cyclists, with a really relaxed vibe, great coffee, quirky branded cycling goods and of course a great workshop.
We grabbed a (free, part of the package) coffee and headed to the workshop. I do have a road bike, but I had chosen to take my everyday hybrid bike along for this session as it is the one I used most....and I was immediately regretting it as my colleagues for the day wheeled out their high end bikes. It's the first time I have wished that I didn't have a ladybird bell on my handlebars, doh. The group were lovely though and no-one laughed at me, especially not Digger, and there is a man with a sense of humour! We all realised pretty quickly that this day was going to be as entertaining as it was informative. Digger very quickly had us laughing with his observational quips. Our first part of the day was to give our bikes a general check over. This included checking wheel alignment, and taking the bikes pulse - who knew? As we looked at our wheels Digger ran round the group asking what pressure everyone tended to have their tyres at...."90, yes, 100, yes, good, 90 when it's raining...and Denise?" "Errmm....pass?" Yes it's embarrassing isn't it. Staying on tyres we looked at how to fix a puncture. I was relieved to hear that even these competitive cyclists weren't comfortable with this skill. Digger demonstrated and of course made it look so easy. "Ah but wait" he said, "I've forgotten, I've got some goodies for you". And so he produced a helix set, tyre levers and a puncture repair kit for us all. Free stuff, the day just got even better! You have never seen such excited faces. So, tyres off, let's have a look inside the wheel and check out our rim tape (don't be rude now). Digger had a look round everyone's wheels, "uh huh, yes, mmm, bit worn..." I sheepishly offered mine up as I realised it had been patched up with electrical tape - embarrassment, what are we on now,number 3?
I tried to justify myself by saying I hadn't taped it up like that, but I'm not sure what's worse, that my local repair shop saw me coming and did it!? However, I felt I redeemed myself as I quite quickly managed to whip the tyre off and replace the inner tube. I was starting to feel a bit competitive as I was efficiently getting my tyre back on, so much so that I persisted pressing the bloody thing on even though I had opened up a cut on my thumb from the day before and was bleeding all over the wheel, oops. No pain and all that. This, along with the ever present oil covered hands explains the lack of photos from the day itself. It was lunchtime now, so get the blood/oil off the hands and upstairs to the LMNH cafe for a great breakfast, another top perk of the day.
After lunch Digger showed us how to effectively repair a puncture (ah, so don't just ditch the old inner tube then?) He's obviously got it down to a fine art and can repair a puncture without removing the whole tyre or inner tube, something I can never quite imagine doing at the side of a main road in the peeing rain. Next, onto brakes. Well, guess what, Denise's brakes look a bit worn. So, Digger would demo how to change the brake blocks, which actually turned into me doing it with direction. I guess it's the best way to learn, with an audience! I played the inevitable Scottish card asking if I would get a discount off the course for my part in this. Who doesn't love a cultural stereotype?I learned a lot here and definitely won't be sticking it in the bike shop next time that needs done. The final part of the day was looking at gears. Now here's a real surprise, mine weren't rubbish, hooray! One of the guys said how his gears had been jumping and offered up his bike...and what a bike it was for someone who was 6' 7"! Digger relished the opportunity to sort this out and gave a working demo of gear alignment. He did admit that this was a tricky example and I think was regretting how it wasn't the ideal training ground for us, but showed us a real all round working of this system. Finally we did some chain maintenance, and like so many of the great things I have done, again we were offered the opportunity of an extra hours' worth of tuition, and who could say no? Well this offer was preceded with the statement that "as cyclists you probably won't have any friends to rush off and meet" I was almost embarassed (again!) to admit that I did. Huge thanks again to the amazing Digger and all at LMNH for a really illuminating and entertaining day!
Sorry to disappoint any Barry Manilow fans, but this isn't a trip to the big nosed crooner's concert. Instead, the colour purple and card 11 led me to....a lesson in magic! To be fair, this did involve someone called Barrie, the owner of the wonderfully quirky 'Illusioneer' in Herne Hill. The outside of this venue totally belies what lies behind. As you first enter the outer type showroom area, you already feel like a child in a magic sweetshop. It is hard to really describe the atmosphere with a photograph, so Barrie has a video called 'Behind the Door' which gives a taste of this place which is magical in every sense of the word.
Then beyond this outer Aladdin's Cave, there is actually the most fantastic tiny theatre, which seats about 20 people for intimate magic shows. This is where we sat to begin my magic adventure. Barrie started by explaining some of the history of magic, which apparently is first documented back to 2700 BC and Egyptian times when Dedi decaptiated a chicken and then reattached it's head. This is not a trick I learned to do in my session....maybe in part two? He explained that magic can be based on technology, suggestion or illusion. Even dating back to Egyptian stories of staffs being changed into snakes, which were based around primitive retracting spring mechanisms. He then talked me through other examples of technology, like the seemingly impossible to open box and the rope that gets cut and then magically returns to its full length. The basis of a lot of these is still in children's magic sets today and even though they were slightly in my subconscious, could I remember how they worked?
Barrie then explained how magic had disappeared from public culture for hundreds of years, often being associated with mistrust in an era when witches were being burned at the stake. In the 1800s it returned to popularity in street markets as a form of entertainment, used to draw customers in, and when captivated, selling them something completely unrelated to the trick. This was a form of parlour or close up magic, done to a small gathering of people, with tricks like the classic cups and balls. Barrie then demonstrated an example of this type of magic and invited me to give it a go. This was with small black and white paddles. No, of course I'm not going to explain how any of the tricks are done, as I am sure I will be demonstrating them on my friends very soon! Once you know the techniques behind the whole performance it becomes clear how the magician uses storytelling to draw you in and involve you, and the subtle distractions that are used. My dad is a big fan of magic and has practised it quite a bit himself, whilst my mum dismisses it as 'tricking folk'. Ah but it is very clever trickery!
Of course no magic lesson would be complete without the classic - card tricks. Barrie showed me two different tricks which really had me flummoxed. I always thought this was an area that I had a bit of an understanding of, but no, yet again I found myself really struggling to see how he could have not only guessed the card I picked, but had me repeatedly pick it again out of 3 packs of cards! I spent a lot of my morning going "What???...... Ahh, I see!" My two hour session (now almost up to two and half hours) was almost at an end. Barrie explained that this session could form the first of three. He gave me away a small kit to practice with and encouraged me to come back to perfect the illusions with a view to developing them and some more. I'm also totally keeping an eye open for his magic shows, special performances, and even a flea circus!
Denise Yeats is an events professional with over 18 years of creating inspiring events ranging from arts events at Tate to Tower Running races. She set herself a personal challenge over two years called 'The Secret Life' which involved doing a new pursuit every week which is chosen at random by an allocated colour and number. This has led onto the creation of 'nnoodl - discovering your secret london life' where people are led on surprise activities...