Futsal. Glorious futsal: secret weapon of Brazilian strikers, scourge of the England squad. Maybe if you’d played futsal growing up – instead of endless rounds of headers-and-volleys – you’d have the buttery-smooth dribble-and-cross game of those kids from the Samsung adverts, instead of…whatever the hell you do now. Listen though: it’s not too late. The outdoor pitch at King’s Cross is free, though the chaps at Footy Addicts charge a very reasonable £2.50 for their regular Monday night game.
Okay: London doesn’t have anything that quite rivals New York’s infamous West 4th Street “Cage” – but in a town with an embarrassment of b-ball courts, Turnpike Lane’s are the most competitive. There are two mid-sized ones to pick from, attracting locals, students and serious itinerant ballers who play a style of game best described as “energetic”. If you’re after something a bit more sedate, there’s always Ravenscourt Park, where you’ll find a couple of half-courts and a hoop for free-throws.
You’re not short of climbing opportunities in London, but most are indoors… and insist on some sort of “safety briefing”. Not at the Olympic Park, pal – here you’re left to your own devices with a couple of walls’ worth of traversing, a splash of sand to break your fall and your own hubris. To be fair, it’s designed to be child-friendly – it gets riotously busy on Saturdays – but there’s easily enough adult-sized exertion on offer to justify a turbo-shandy at the nearby Roof East.
Sure, there’s always Soho Square, but… it feels wrong. The glares of the crowd, the faint whiff of cider, the weirdly aggressive crosswinds that make a proper backspin chop impossible… no, no, far better to head for the rare air of N19, where there’s a brace of free tables on offer year-round, and a thriving “scene” of regulars. Loads of space around the tables to get your serve-returns going, and a lovely park to walk in if they’re busy? Winner.
You’ve seen Searching For Bobby Fischer, right? Laurence Fishburne doing a Matrix dry run as cool/mysterious Joe Mantegna, being all fatherly and adorable? Never mind: the point is that “blitz” chess, usually played with a five-minute time-limit, is hypnotic stuff, and London’s serious players head for Holland Park. When the weather turns the action shifts to a nearby Caffe Nero, and for more ponderous players there’s a giant set nearby.
5 of the best, and completely free, fitness classes in London