I’ve just cycled through town, or part of it, Friday evening. A mild September evening. Up Bootham, passing the quiet dark space of Bootham Park, shaded by trees, guarded by rusty railings, soon to be smartened.
Past the grand Georgian buildings, and the smaller buildings clustered by the old wall of the abbey, with the noise noticeable, building along Bootham, with more light and noise in general, and music. Just past the bright lights of the Sainsbury’s Local, live music, from the Bootham Tavern, breaking out into the street … ‘And the world, and the world, the world drags me down’. A song I remember from the Roxy, a few doors down, decades back, as I whizz past it in the cycle lane, past the traffic.
A green light ahead. A focus on the road, and the cars to the side of me, I’m heading straight on, through the bar. Big beautiful floodlit Bootham Bar. Haven’t been through it much recently, and wonder why not. Haven’t been into town at all much recently, and wonder why not. Tonight High Petergate is full of pedestrians wandering, some clearly not wandering in a straight and controlled manner, and there’s a car behind me, and I’m trying to negotiate around the pedestrians as speedily and considerately as I can. Passing another busy pub with music playing. People in there too, lots of them. Enjoying mid-September mildness, thin summer clothes, no shivering when leaving indoor spaces, lots of people lingering in the outdoor spaces, as well as enjoying the indoor ambience.
In there and out here, it’s all quite ‘vibrant’. It’s a vibrant Friday.
I’m whizzing past the end of Duncombe Place, about to pass by the Minster, looking even more impressive at night rising out of the gloom than it does in the day reaching up to the sky. There’s a row of bollards with gaps between for pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrians meander across, I’m crossing their path, they’re crossing mine, I’m aiming for the gaps in the bollards. There’s only one available gap in the bollards, because the other cycle-wide gap is occupied by one of those bloody annoying and now essentially pointless nagging council signs about wearing a face covering. A jarring note is struck. I wonder about stopping, getting off the bike, and moving the stupid obstruction, throwing it over the railings. I think this might make me feel better. But instead I pedal on, more sedately now with no cars behind, past the Minster’s great bulk, gazing up, still amazed, at the stained glass, lit from the inside and shining in the night, so vivid, so huge, so high above street level.
A van turning round, as I approach the other end of Duncombe Place, so I slow down and wait, briefly, while this manoeuvre takes place. Just as so many motorists have slowed down for me, on the narrow streets, on this journey and others. It’s not rush-hour, it’s a Friday evening, a vibrant Friday evening, at the tail-end of summer, good to appreciate it if you can. While I wait I think about all the online comments in the Press I see that suggest that cyclists and motorists are forever at war. Doesn’t seem that way to me. Consideration all round.
Moving on again, round the corner, past the Cross Keys, busy with pedestrians at the end of Goodramgate, negotiating round them. More live music from another pub. Lights, music, action. Noticing newly opened places, old businesses still there, on this vibrant Friday.
Then turning right into the quietness of Aldwark, passing the relatively restful residential sleepiness of Bedern, and St Andrewgate. Locking the bike, going to the supermarket. Held up at the till by a woman who has just bought a bottle of what appears to be champagne/fizzy wine, and is writing the card for it while still at the till. This is negotiated around, eventually, by moving to another till. It’s a vibrant Friday night, and a generally smiling one, with room to accommodate, with just a few raised eyebrows. Real life is often like that, isn’t it, though if you look at Twitter a lot you might not think so.
Back on the bike, heading home, deciding to go the same way as I came, past the music, and the Minster with its massive bulk, looking again at the light from within through its stained glass.
Past the end of Gillygate, onto Bootham, with cars at the lights, and from the Tav, the same band still playing, doing a cover of Led Zeppelin this time, ‘Hey hey baby when you walk that way’ – I do a mild kind of head-banging thing as I cycle past, laughing at myself, heading home, thankful that life is back to encompassing the noisy, wandering, meandering, fast and slow, the messy and vibrant reality.