Believe it or not, I found myself in London again last month – it’s quite easy to get there on the train from Newcastle. We’d gone down to join in with some family birthday celebrations.
We decided to stay in The Hub by Premier Inn next to King’s Cross Station. It was an excellent hotel even though the rooms were small, but for the price and location it was a bargain. It was modern and stylish with a futuristic finish to it.
One of the features of the hotel was that the room could be controlled via an app, but for a room where you could be no more than six feet away from the light switches, this seemed a bit over the top. It felt as if the app had been made just for the sake of having it. We downloaded it nonetheless.
Before we were due to go out for dinner, Daisy (from this point forward my partner’s pseudonym) was sat on the bed playing with the app. “This is rubbish, it’s not doing anything I tell it to” she muttered. “I’m pressing the light dimmer and nothing’s happening. Let’s see if I can switch the TV on.” She paused. “Nope, not working.”
“The light switch is next to your head, just use that” I suggested. About five minutes later there was a knock at the door and Daisy’s mum came in.
“How’s your room?” I asked.
“It’s lovely” she replied, “but for some reason the lights keep dimming and the TV switched itself off.”
As I’d booked the hotel rooms, something dawned on me. “Daisy, what room number is your app synced to?”
After some food, we spent the rest of the evening in the hotel bar which had free tea and coffee and a selection of board games to play. As the hotel had only been open a few weeks, some of the games were still sealed in their boxes. “I bet it won’t take long before these lose their shiny new feel to them” Daisy commented and she was right; half an hour later she knocked her drink all over the game we’d chosen to play.
For the next day I’d arranged to meet some friends for a run. Before that however, the North Face had a sale on and I needed some winter clothes for my next holiday/expedition. This was quickly followed by a stop off at my favourite book shop in all of London; Stanfords. I love it so much that I have a loyalty card for the place, even if I do live 250 miles away – it is the greatest travel book shop I have visited.
After spending more money than I would have liked, I caught up with my friends back at the hotel and got ready for a run along the canal. We had all studied in Swansea over ten years ago, and I knew them both from the different degree courses I took whilst there (physics and materials science and engineering if you were curious). I quickly introduced everyone to each other and we set off.
Dai, from my physics days, is a serious runner and had completed the 100km Race to the Stones the previous weekend. He’d sent out an open invitation for anyone to come running with him, no matter what the distance, via social media. I’d completed the Gateshead 10km a few weeks before (which is about my limit) and I felt that this qualified me for a #RunWithDai (his hash tag, not mine). CJ was a marathon runner, so I was in good company.
As we jogged (the run got downgraded) along the canal, the conversation flowed and it was good to catch up with my friends. We passed plenty of cyclists and other runners taking advantage of the good weather as well as pockets of homeless people living out of tents by the side of the waterway.
On we jogged until something caught our eye which made us slow down to a walk. On the other side of the canal, high up and behind a fence, were a pack of hyenas pacing up and down as if they were waiting for something. Although I am not accustomed to day-to-day life in London, I was pretty sure that hyenas were not native to the city. Thankfully my assumptions were correct and CJ pointed out to me that we’d reached London Zoo and the hyenas were waiting to be fed. We thought this was a good point to turn around and head back.
At the end of our jog, we said our goodbyes and Dai and I agreed that we shouldn’t leave it ten years until our next catch up. It was an enjoyable day. However, if you would have told me ten years ago that I would be running along the canals of London with Dai and CJ for fun, I would have quizzed you about what you had been taking and tried to persuade you to lay off them for a few days.