Every morning, close to the end of my cycle to work, Westminster Bridge looms ahead. Hardly Mount Ventoux the Tour de France killer but still a thigh sapping incline, before the crest and lethal descent…
Why a lethal descent? Two lanes into three, accelerating downhill, buses cutting across from the inside to the right turn filter, rubble trucks, taxis, motorbikes and assorted cyclists of all abilities – plus three lanes of fast oncoming. Every morning I look at it and think: if I am to day today it will be here. RIP.
Still I’ve survived it for over a decade, so chin up. And a daily reminder of how trivially it could all end helps with Nietzsche’s injunction to ‘live as a work of art’ and Sartre’s to ‘own’ our uniqueness. Wise words.
But the best bit of briefly reprising Tommy Simpson’s epic climb of Ventoux, is the cresting of Westminster Bridge as the Houses of Parliament emerge from the brow of the artificial hill.
What majesty, what poesy, what flights of fancy in decor. Low spring sun glints off the leaded windows and lights the gold adornments. Summer breezes flutter the Union Jack proudly. Even winter fogs progressively reveal its Victorian aspect and evoke ‘pea soupers’ of the Industrial Age.
Turner saw the original burn (his painting from the Tate above) but what a Phoenix rose from those ashes. It cheers me every day and keeps me pedalling in sun, rain or showers.