The following account is a fictional tale by an imaginary skater called ”I”.
Friday’s skate was rather interesting. Let’s start from the good stuff. First off: Achievement Unlocked – I finally met long distance phenomenon: Rayne & Otang’s Miss H! Sadly I did not get to steal her sexy Rayne Amazon as previously planned. Maybe next time.
She came up to London for the UK’s (and maybe Europe’s) premier (read as only?) long distance event. The turnout was great. Lots of people. Some of those who came were in high-vis jackets claiming to be officers of the law. Before I got there, they talked to everyone and told them not to cross the river, failure to comply would lead to arrest under section 12. Party on.
I already spoken to the skaters earlier that day telling them we would definitely NOT be going East or anywhere near the Olympics as trigger happy custodians of peace could try to play tag with bullets.
We set off, and what do you know, not 30 seconds into it some idiot skateboarder was standing on the bridge with his unwashed hair shouting ”East it best”, come over here. Right in front of the hefty police barricade. I was about as keen as following him as I was about sitting on a unicorn’s head. I shouted at all the other skaters to ignore him and turn away. We went left, further south. I was quite chuffed, we would finally do a totally properly NEW route! We even jested about taking the mass to Surrey: anywhere away from the hotzone. We even had a helicopter escort as motivation for good behaviour. About 5 minutes after I realised some of the skaters must have gone up with the unwashed anarchist, along with about half of the mass. Let’s call this first splinter group – A.
The A group was clearly being directed by smelly, mischievous persons, and I kept in telephone contact with our brethren who had been swept up with them, to try to reunite. It turned out our group wasn’t going to be better off for long. Whoever was in front decided we would try to cross the river at London Bridge. It seems the uncrowned Prince of England – David Beckham also shared the idea. We were all stuck together at the road-block and the police put a lot of effort into getting him through, allegedly with their fists, I didn’t see the action as I waited at the bottom of the street with some other skaters for the obvious retreat.
This shouldn’t have been an issue really. There were police vans up there, nobody was getting through, not sure why they even tried to go through. We should have turned back and headed towards Brixton, Cape Town or Southampton, anywhere South of the river.
Most of us skaters are as familiar with these streets as you are with sobriety, so we are usually following the mass, not blindly but following all the same. Some of the naughty persons in front took us through some side streets and we ended up trying to cross bloody Tower Bridge.
Big surprise, the boys in blue were waiting. Up to this point, critical mass had not been fun at all. We were there to skate and all we’d done was akin to a bad campaign in a strategy game. Some of the people we lost at London bridge were reunited with us so we had a little boarder team talk. We decided that if these clowns kept playing silly buggers with law enforcement we would take our sizable posse of skaters towards the sweet hills of Wimbledon. We were there to skate. Not stand around looking like lemmings.
We set off again, and it looked like the mass had finally decided to enjoy the ride as opposed to being a pain in everyone’s backside. We went towards places I only ever see on the underground. Thanks for having us Bermondsey, your tarmac is tasty. We were finally SKATING.
We did a good 10-20 minutes and then the sensible thing to do would have been to stop and wait for the back of the mass to catch up. But again, some idiots were in front, and decided to walk into the middle of the roundabout and try to hold traffic up even though we were not ready to move. The annoying thing is that these people don’t know the culture or habits of the mass, turn up once for selfish reasons and bugger off into the sewers. They weren’t corking, they weren’t thinking of the mass as a cohesive unit. They were just stupid. The skaters hung back at the lights for a while, then the whole mass set off.
Then shit got good.
Hotels have star ratings, Critical Mass has a scale from 1-5 ”tunnels”. 1 meaning very little tunnel fun was had. 5 being – all the tunnels/underpasses were skated and they were fast and FUN! The exit we went off led into a very gentle decline and what looked like a short tunnel. It wasn’t. This was uncategorically the best underpass I have ever skated. The surface was smoother than that guy who stole your girlfriend, and it was longer than… You get the picture. It went DOWN for so long. Because of the gradual decline it was hard to tell how fast you could/were going. It was so so good. Almost as fast as ”epic tunnel” and longer than ”dubstep tunnel”. This stretch of road made up for all the crap we had been through.
On coming out of the other side, I realised we were near Old Street. Still unsure how. The tunnel must be some sort of time warping gnar hole. There were 3 policemen on the other side, and the helicopter was gone. They let us through without incident. And then we kept moving, towards heaven only knows. Turns out the people in front knew. We saw some blue and red Olympic smoke in the distance and I thought ”we may be near, but we are definitely not going there… right?”. Wrong.
We got to the crest of this road and BANG, right there in front of us was the Olympic stadium. The law enforcers didn’t say anything, they just asked us to keep moving. The streets were SO SMOOTH, and it was quite exciting to be there. We went past the whole circus with no incidents. I couldn’t believe it. The police and armed forces personnel didn’t smile and wave at us, but they were polite and didn’t try to stop us. Surreal stuff. We made it past – safely.
Well almost. Right outside Stratford station, 30 seconds after passing, an idiot wearing too much brown suggested we cycle to the Olympic village, I suggested that he mixed cement with his next bowl of cereal. We’d come and been tolerated without incident. What could be gained from straying back into the belly of the tense beast? I was very vocal and suggest we clear the area – maybe head back to a part of London where we could understand what the locals said. People nodded, we moved off, I looked back, a huge part of the mass wasn’t following, let’s call them group Bee.
We kept on, went round the roundabout to head back West and what do you know, the mass had disappeared. It seems Sherlock Brown had convinced the mass to follow him back into Stratford Westfield or wherever the Olympic village was, and the police had decided they’d had enough. They’d put them in a kettle and set it to boil. At this point, myself and the few faithful blended in with the locals/pedestrians and went to the pub. Safe, unharmed and wondering which of our brethren was caught up in group B. Some of them came round the corner to join us and we celebrated our good fortune. Then we heard sirens, lots of them. On 8 police vans. At this point, I decided skating west wasn’t nearly as attractive as getting a bus further East/West/Anywhere-away-from-here. Some of the other skaters didn’t share my disposition and they made their own way. We said we’d meet at Waterloo in an hour.
Our jolly band had now reduced to 4 men. Sort of like in Lord of the rings. But we were much more hairy than the hobbits. 2 of the guys who joined us said lax policing had resulted in their escape from the Stratford kettle. Some other intelligence brought to us suggested the skaters who went west had also been stopped. We had a jolly old time finding an escape route. I got back to Waterloo about an hour and 15 after we set off. Not too shabby. Got lots of texts from everywhere inquiring as to my health/sanity as apparently twitter was blowing up with footage from police brutality to cyclists.
Fast forward to this morning. One of the girls in group survivor who, like us, should have made it home without incident, apparently went off to find her cyclist mom who was being kettled somewhere. Upon arriving at the barrier a nice police person grabbed her and plonked her into the kettle and threw some handcuffs on as well for extra fun.
It was a funny old evening. We had some showers, same as we did in the July mass last year. And just like last year – I woke up in the middle of the night with leg cramps. The skating (when we eventually did it) was great, that’s all this event is about. Having a nice ride.
Unless the Olympic happens again next month this will be the last of the trouble we have on a normally peaceful ride.
Don’t follow leaders.