Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Berkhamsted to Leighton Buzzard, Ealing to Roehampton and All Points West.

A little while since I posted but we had some nice weather and I have been outside.

First of all I finished my canal walk. Berkhamsted to Leighton Buzzard.

It was an Alan Bennett sort of day. That is to say one where the curious creatures that are people, taken individually, kept coming to my attention.

It's easy to forget sometimes how odd and individual people are - you don't notice differences when all you do is go in and out to work and everyone including yourself (for which read myself) tries their hardest not to notice or impinge in anyway. We turn into background and our distinctiveness is lost.

And of course the oddities of my own family and friends are so familiar they no longer feel odd.

It started on the train. Where two men, either a couple, brothers very distant in age or just possibly father and son if the father started young, were sitting across the aisle from me writing on a wedding card, passing it back and forth between them alternating writing heartening comments that they then read out to one another in silly voices.

'I suppose your generation never really got married.' The younger man said eventually.

'And yours haven't got round to divorcing yet.' The older man pointed out.

When we got to Berkhamsted I was surprised and pleased to see the remains of a castle from the train. Last time, approaching the station from the canal side and (I assume) slumping exhausted in my seat after my walk from Rickmansworth, I missed it.

Berkhamsted Castle

I've since googled. Apparently Berkhamsted was where William the Conqueror was handed the keys to London and offered the crown of England. 1066 and all that.

The castle is mostly just earthworks now and both outer defensive walls and central motte are entirely grassed over, with bluebells just coming into their best and daffodils just going over (which will give you an indication of how long it was between my drafting this post and actually posting it).

I also saw an orange tip butterfly. The first orange tip I've seen in ages, we don't seem to get them in London. Mostly tortoiseshells and the occasional peacock.

It was a warm day but muddy with recent rain. The canal towpath varies from concrete to packed earth that hollows and channels water where it's most walked on, and once the ground is saturated and there's nowhere for the water to go it puddles, stirring up with each footstep and making rills and pools that it's not always easy to gauge the depth of. Naturally the ground was firmest right at the canal edge where the metal reinforced it - which raised the added thrill of potentially falling in. Not that much harm would have come to me - I would simply have been hauled out by the other (surprisingly large amount of) people who had decided to trek through mud in the sunshine. Such as the dog walking lady who looked at my boots and said cheerfully 'It doesn't get any better then.'

'Oh well, it has to be done' I said.

'My husband's in sandals.' She told me happily.

Slip ons as well. I passed the husband a bit further on, making way for him since I was the one in boots. 'Soon dry out.' He said, also surprisingly chipper.

Then there were the llamas, and the barge with a gorilla mask hanging over the front, like an old fashioned figurehead on a ship, and the very drunk man about halfway, in a pub at a place rather fantastically called Startops End (near the village of Marsworth, as if that provides any reference point) who would not stop making silly jokes that I now wish I'd thought to write down.

I'm sure Alan Bennett would have thought to.

Brent River Park Ealing

This Sunday on the other hand was a Jerome K Jerome sort of day. I did a part of the Capital Ring. Again in the sunshine. Boston Manor to Wimbledon.

Lots of bicycle riders making marginally less progress than I was walking because they kept stopping to discuss where they were going and adjust their cardigans. Richmond itself like a regatta with ice cream eaters lining the riverbanks (the banks slope very impressively at Richmond.) whole flotillas of rowing boats tethered at the piers for hire, families perambulating, bicycles dodging through, pubs spilling out into the sunshine. It was like the TV had never been invented, let alone the internet.

And then I went horribly wrong (literally miles wrong) in Richmond Park somewhere and ended up at Roehampton and had to catch the bus.

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