Sunday, August 14, 2011

Riding the folder in England: Riverboat Cafe and Fish Pedicure in Reading (Berkshire)

Tower Bridge across the river Thames in London

After a one week trip to England this year, another riding experience with my folder can be added to this blog.  It happened  that we were in London on Tuesday, August 9, 2011, one day after the occurrence of riots in major cities across England.  But before I get to tower Bridge in London, I will tell you of my first impressions which I gained on this trip in the beautiful town of Reading (Berkshire) west of London.  

Along the River Thames in Reading
It began with a nice ride along the river Thames in Reading where I admired the house boats and where I stopped to have a cup of coffee in a very special kind of cafe, the Riverboat Cafe, which was moored near a big playground.  An ideal place: While I was having my coffee and  talked with some locals, the kids could be busy on the playground.

House Boats
A young owner of one of the numerous house boats on the river told me how much fun it was to live there.  It was his only home, much cheaper than living in a flat, since his annual boat license of 700 pounds is the only expense for his home.  I felt attracted, not only because of boyhood dreams and of my readings of Tom Sawyer`s  life on the Mississippi river.  I became aware of the fact that one group of folding bike riders is cherishing the Brompton  because it is so practical on a boat: it is easy to stow away and always ready for a ride whenever  the sailor needs to go somewhere after he has achored  in a harbour. (In Germany there is a friendly internet dealer of boat equipment who also sells the Brompton.)

A New way of Comforting Tired Feet
In a shopping mall in the business center of Reading, I saw a new way of providing a boon for the weary feet of any pedal cyclist.
At 1 pound per minute you can let your feet dangle into a small water basin with little fish. Evidently, a newly commercialized idea of Asian ways of treating human feet. 
                        "Fish Pedicures involve a  client submerging their feet in warm water
                            while tiny carp, called Doctor Fish, eat the dead skin" 
The little fish come and nibble away any undesirable particles on your feet`s skin, and, as a lady told me who was just finishing this unusal kind of pedicure, it  goes with a nice soft touch on your feet and results in a very relaxing feeling. 

Fish pedicure in Reading (Berkshire) good for weary feet of
pedal cyclists

An onlooker, probably a folding bike friend with burning feet, asking about having his toe dipped in.
How to Deal With Mistakes in Daily Life
However, as a folding biker I had made my way into the town center for another purpose.  I wanted to test again how friendly the sales persons in supermarkets and shops were.  So far the British way of servicing people had impressed me.  They treat you as a customer who is respected and they take their time to explain and to help.
Politeness and humour are two main elements of the very good service quality there. In one case,  I liked the way a black salesman was joking with a customer who had told him how embarrassed he was  because of a mistake.  The salesman smiled, seized a big, largely oversized eraser with the words "my mistakes" printed on them and he said:  "Look, this is what I use when I have made a mistake.  I take it and whipe my mistakes off."  Everybody, a few bystanders and I, smiled or chuckled.  This man should be given an extra salary for his light handed and humourus way of performing the generally somewhat tedious tasks as a cashier.

A "Brooks Classics" for my Brompton
No wonder that I was encouraged, by this and some other shopping experiences to go for my main purchase:  I went into a small bicycle shop down at the far end of the shopping street and around the right hand corner,  in order to  by a Brooks classics leather saddle for my Brompton.  I bought one in honey colour, paid 70 pounds and got for free some good pieces of advice, the most important one being: "Don`t forget to get some good saddle fat for the leather because the material is alive.  It needs some treatment and care in order to  become smooth and to last long." 

A Roaring Lion
On my stroll through a park, I stopped short at the impressive sight of a monument showing a roaring lion.  It has been erected in honour of several hundred brave men of Reading who  died in Afghanistan, back in the 19th century when the British empire suffered a terrible defeat in the battle of Kabul (1842): 4,500 British soldiers died. Hopefully, the roar of this lion will help to make more people aware of the futility of the present campaign in Afghanistan which is far from ending with a victory.

A Helicopter over the City
And finally, a  somewhat arbitrary change of topic, which shows that there was something in the air these days:  We saw a helicopter
hovering over the city of Reading for quite some time.  It looked
as if somebody had hung it there into the sky.  The rotator kept it fixed at one point in the sky.  It did not go anywhere, it just stood there, probably overlooking a scene, or taking pictures, or scanning,
or what? A police helicopter?  

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