‘Cripes look out!’
Jon Day encounters Boris Johnson
Cyclists, unlike motorists or pedestrians, tend to notice other cyclists. When I was working as a bike messenger, Jon Snow was an almost permanent fixture of Gray's Inn Road, shuttling to and from the ITN building. I saw David Cameron, for all his eco-trumpeting, only once. He was going down Whitehall with the telltale wobble of the amateur enthusiast. There was a car following, though whether it contained a change of clothes and briefcase I couldn’t say.
And then there was Boris Johnson. A regular pick-up from the Angel going to Burlington House on the Strand would send me down Rosebery Avenue, where I’d often see him emerging from Amwell Street. On a particularly slow and dismal day I chased him down and said: ‘Giz a job.’
‘What do you want to do?’ he muttered as we rode down Farringdon Road, he on the inside, me circling to his right.
‘I want to write,’ I said.
It’s a strange thing to harangue a man on a bicycle. He can’t get away, and conversation has to be conducted with one eye on the road. ‘Cripes look out!’ he said – does the mask never slip? – as a bus (bendy) swerved towards us. I felt I was using the traffic to threaten him, assaulting him in an environment in which he wasn’t overly confident, and it seemed to work. ‘Email Matthew d’Ancona at the Spectator,’ he shouted as I swerved right up Clerkenwell Road and he continued down towards the river.
It seemed apposite that the exchange took place over the entombed River Fleet. I never did email the Spectator. What would I have said? After he became mayor, I saw Johnson less often, but once, on Cleveland Street, he crossed my path again. We spotted the ambush of photographers at the same time. I rode on, the wrong way down a one-way street. The mayor was obliged to get off and walk.