nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Seen today

In Central Park:

1. A man running bare foot. But wearing a hat and gloves!? It is minus 2 degrees Celsius with a bitter Easterly wind. It was not the man I had seen previously who ran literally in just his shorts. 

2. A man juggling whilst running. I have seen him before, he’s quite old and favours wearing bright orange. 

3. A woman wearing a hooded fur coat which was so large she looked like a yeti from behind. 

That is all. 

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Sun, snow and sadness

I’m getting used to running in minus temperatures. It’s bloody hard to start with, but once you get going, you warm up a bit and with just my face exposed to the elements, I’m covered from head to toe. Running along the streets, it’s cold and sunless, despite the fact that I know it is a beautiful sunny day and not a cloud in the sky.  I pop out on to Fifth Avenue and breath a sigh of relief as the light returns and the pristine snow of Central Park beckons. It is lovely.

The 6 mile inner loop road used by runners is clear but the bordered by walls of snow. Vast swathes of the park are just covered in a blanket of white snow and everyone just seems quite happy. I run the bottom half of the loop road from north to south, all the way past the ice rink at 61st Street which looks great in this weather. Too cold to hang out at the reservoir for some stretching today, so I tootle back down to Fifth Avenue and the sun disappears in the shade of the tall buildings of Manhattan.

I pause at Park Avenue as I just miss the lights and am faced with a wall of photographers and TV cameras camped out in the central reservation of Park Avenue. What’s this? I quickly realise it’s the funeral of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s not yet started, but the press are out in force, flanked by many NYPD officers. In the few minutes I wait for the lights, I see no one arrive but the anticipation is great and they clearly expect Hollywood stars to appear at some point to pay their last respects.

The lights change and then I’m off. It’s a surreal pause in my journey today, where sun, snow and sadness mingle together in the freezing streets of New York.

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Someone left the heating on

That’s exactly how it feels in New York right now. You are in a nice, cool air conditioned building and then you walk outside and hot air hits you. It’s quite disconcerting to go from the cold inside to the hot outside. And disorientating when you are walking along the hot pavements and you get hit by cool blasts from air conditioning vents. What’s worse is that it doesn’t cool down. It’s late at night and still warm enough just to wear a t shirt.

I was in the Central Park on Friday. Our first experience of sprinklers. When I was a kid, a sprinkler was the small device your dad used to water the lawn on the odd day it seemed a bit warm. I can remember running in and out of the spray of water as it moved from one side to the other. Here sprinklers appear in the playgrounds for the kids to run in and out of and keep cool. J loves his first experience, running into the water and then squealing with slight shock and real delight when the blast of cold water hits his face. He is resplendent in his water gear and enjoys every moment. It will be a theme for the summer.

By lunchtime on Friday I was gratified to see that few people were crazy enough to be running in 30+ degree heat. At 730 on Saturday morning I go for a run in Central Park because I think it will be cooler and I am very wrong. It is hot. The temperature has not dipped below 23 degrees. Too hot for running and I have to keep stopping to prevent myself from over heating. It brings out a lot of early runners and a lot of barely clad people. Men in skimpy shorts and no tops; women in shorts and even shorter tank tops showing rippling bellies and many bosoms that need more control.

By 8am people, mostly men, are playing baseball in regulation coloured t shirts tucked into cream coloured trousers and looking deadly serious in baseball caps. The little leaguers are still asleep but will emerge soon to look like cute versions of these committed sportsmen. The park looks fabulous, lush and green with its canopies of trees giving grateful shelter to mediocre runners like me. Too early for tourists but early enough for random groups of people to be hanging around. Some are getting ready to marshal a race in the park but with others I have no idea what connects them together so early in the park. Maybe it’s just the heat forcing them outside: air conditioning is a luxury in NYC.

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Heath to Park

Late November on Hampstead Heath. What a beautiful, unique space. Going for my last run (everything is the last at the moment) the colours are amazing: trees the colour of red hot pokers; carpets of leaves cover the grass. One huge, now bare, tree looks like a giant came along and gave it an almighty shake. There are the ubiquitous dog walkers but my favourite sadly absent: the polar opposites of the lolloping Bassett hound with his long legged, horse-like great Dane friend always make me smile. I remember the many British Military Fitness sessions, running in the rain, the snow and the mud. Oh, the mud. I will so miss BMF and lament my failure to persuade anyone of the merits of getting a wet bum on the Heath first thing on a Saturday. Hope there’s something similar in Central Park. Hampstead Heath is 800 acres and Central Park only a little larger. The Heath has its own flasher who we are all warned about; pockets of undergrowth where sadly people end their lives and its toilets have a certain reputation. Regardless of this – I expect Central Park has similar – I will miss the place where I trained pre and post natal in the early morning mists and ran for miles to blow away the cobwebs. I will look to learn to love Central Park in the same way.