On Top of the World

We often forget how small and vulnerable we really are. It’s ironic really, considering how big our world appears in front of us.

When walking down any street, particularly in bustling cities such as London, we are swallowed by a jungle of concrete and steel. Buildings outsize and surround us; cars out-speed and transport us. We are essentially in the clasp of our own creations, and often fail to realise that we are actually a bit imprisoned by them.

This Saturday however, I got the opportunity to outsize every building, and look down at how small they really are. I saw the world below me, and the lands beyond me.

I saw people living their everyday lives; they were minuscule and tiny, yet in reality I was no bigger. I simply had a better view, free from the towering concrete walls, where I came to realise our size is irrelevant when you can see the world right in front of you. It’s then you realise how small everything really is.

It’s been another week of starting sluggish, and ending with a flourish.

At long last, we have shaken off the remnants of a shattering spring, and welcomed in summer. The calendar has turned to June, which means mere days remain until that final exam is over.

It’s strange to think that a week ago I was finally running around the Cyclopark. I’m reminded every day of the intense heat, as throughout this week every look in the mirror I bear witness to 50 Shades of Warren.

Like a fresh tub of Neapolitan ice cream.

That gruelling and memorable day feels like an eternity away, and God knows I miss it. The thought of having to wait a year for the next marathon is like waiting for Christmas, and little prepared me for the kick of reality when I returned back to London.

The soreness was one thing, the still lingering calf and Achilles strain another, but never did I expect the ‘post-marathon blues’ to be a thing.

Once the high mood of my longest ‘runner’s high’ wore off, I properly came crashing down.

I could cope with being physically drained; I faced an entire week of no schedule, simply revision, so resting was never an issue. On the mental side however, I went on to spend the first few days in my room duelling with a bit of depression.

It was an aspect I had not prepared for (the beginner’s naivete forgivable), but ‘post-marathon syndrome’ swallowed me up whole. It turns out it’s a genuine reaction, and results from having spent months revolving around a single goal, where once it is finally achieved, you are then faced with an almost crushing sense of emptiness. I had spent each month since the beginning of the year talking about how everything would climax this May, and once it did, I was faced with a bit of a ‘what now?’.

Of course, I still have one more exam remaining, but with four done and the marathon meaning so much, I felt like the ‘purpose’ I had been chasing had vanished for another year. It was obvious then at this point that the irrational proceeds the rational, and for a few days I was horribly lost with little sense of purpose.

It was a tricky period, and has made the week feel like an eternity. But, soon those chemicals in the brain calm down, your head clears, and soon you start to feel the rain, rather than just getting wet.

Even through that period, I managed to keep working hard in the gym, and found myself new goals to pursue. Thanks to Amazon’s sensational same-day delivery, I also quickly found myself in possession of swimming goggles for the first time in years.

If The Stig was a swimmer, he’d probably wear these. I was feeling buoyant in my shiny new goggles.

I was excited at the prospect of no longer leisurely floating along doing the breaststroke like an old lady; finally I could return to freestyle and swim properly.

It was once I got in the pool, thrashed around a few strokes, and generally suffocated myself that it became apparent my breathing was way off. Terribly off. After many woeful lengths, I swallowed a lot of pride, and about half the pool.

Attempts to turn my head and breathe simply resulted in me gulping down another litre of water, and then with my head underwater my nose had filled to the brink of exploding.

I tiptoed like a pansy out of the pool briefly to get my nose plug, and then returned to address the problems with my technique. It was a tough swim, and I knew I had a lot to work on, a lot of research to do. My air-deprived lungs were actually a sweet sensation however, as I now knew what my next goal would entail. The same sensation couldn’t be said for my pinched nose, which by the end of my hour in the pool had practically become 2-D.

I took a couple of days off, and in that time finished up my revision, sent off my postal vote for the election, and read up about how to swim properly.

I got back in the water, and it all started to come together. What a feeling.

Caution is still being taken for my strained calf, which is tight in the evenings and painful going up stairs. At least this time I have the luxury of being in no rush to heal; I plan to begin a fartlek speed training programme back in the Maidstone countryside once I move out from London.

As my mood lifted, I began to think more positively towards how I am going to spend these last couple of weeks in London, and beyond that, how the summer back home is going to be just as memorable as last year. Being the tight-budgeting, ‘don’t need don’t buy’ type that I have become over this past year, it wasn’t long before I was Googling ‘things to do in London on a budget’. Soon after, I was intrigued to come across somewhere known as the Sky Garden. Even more intriguing, it was free to enter, and only a bus journey away (which means walking distance).

Led by curiosity, I ambitiously searched for tickets. Surely, the big cheeses of this multi-million pound establishment wouldn’t have space in their inn for this heavily in-debt shepherd.

There were a few days over the next fortnight with one ticket available, but each of them for disabled visitors. Visions of various South Park episodes tempted me, but I had already taken enough shame this year pretending to be an underage alcoholic.

My ambition then rose to ridiculous levels when I tried the Saturday, which was tomorrow for the Ellis surfing around on a Friday night.

Astonishingly, there was one adult ticket left. This has been a year of why nots, and the philosophy continued when I snapped up my pass into the skies.

Saturday dawned; glorious rays of sunshine, warm weather, and a 12:30 appointment in a garden amongst the clouds. I was off to one of heaven’s showrooms.

I made the brief two-mile trip from Dinwiddy to the St Paul’s area by foot, and after passing the shops and scenery, was very much glad I elected not to throw out three quid on the bus. I was surprised at how I had never considered visiting the London Bridge area, it was so much nicer than Oxford Street.

That said, it’s probably best my visits to London Bridge are infrequent, as we all know what happened only a few hours later.

When I arrived, the Sky Garden building certainly did not disappoint in terms of size. The huge steel structure stood tall as I gazed up to the top; soon I would be standing on its balcony, all the way up on the 35th floor.

You can always tell you’re going a long way up when you can feel your ears popping. We reached the top quicker than the SOAS lifts get to floor 5.

Once the doors opened, my eyes adjusted to the bright spectacle of, well, London.

The entire city stood in front of me. I was on the balcony, out in the open, up in the skies of the bustling and busy city. It was like looking at a scaled model; everything was so small, so intricate. In front of me, people went about their daily lives like clockwork. The whole city operated, each and every known landmark around me rife with their usual activity. I saw the world at work around me; it was a wonderful scene, but an even better feeling was the sense of escape.

I was above and beyond the imprisoning buildings, the shouting horns, screaming sirens, and the stresses and demands of the concrete jungle. I stood above the world, and felt the bliss of freedom. It was a true escape.

The garden itself was lovely, beautifully maintained greenery with some lovely looking restaurants. Unfortunately I didn’t have a couple of grand spare in my pocket to try out the food, so I can’t write any reviews there. But above all (quite literally), I had one of the best views in London, and hadn’t paid a penny.

I took so many photos, and revelled in the magical moment when I could genuinely exclaim ‘I can see my house from here!’.
Look for the blue buildings, and then the smaller brown building in front of them.

It was a therapeutic, and uplifting hour in the Sky Garden. It was thanks to my trip that I had two important reminders; the world is small, and you just have to go out and see it.

I had spent so long being frugal, cramping myself into this tiny little city that I had almost trapped myself. Once above the squeeze, I realised how important it is to escape. My previously low mood was completely remedied by the highs of being amongst the clouds.

London stretches just far enough to ensure I couldn’t quite make out the lands beyond it, but in a way it inspired me, and made me realise that the world is just waiting to be seen.

I feel refreshed, and bright as ever with the summer just about in full swing. Each day is made enjoyable under the sunny skies, and with the sound of the blazing tunes from the 2017 Summer Playlist. The final exam on Tuesday will signal the end of the first year, and pave the way for the remaining fortnight in London to do whatever comes to mind. Whether that’s something or nothing, it doesn’t matter. The weight on our shoulders is gradually lifting; the pressure will cease, and once again, we can all escape into the summer.


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