Monday, 24 June 2013

London Loop Part 1: Also Known as a Lengthy and Nettle-Strewn Wander Round the More Mundane Parts of South East London

Number of Special Brew-swilling tramps spotted: One (but accompanied by equally inebriated friend, so counts as two).
Number of people spotted on walk other than the above: One (cyclist who mysteriously disappeared into a bush, never to be seen again).

I was supposed to write this yesterday, but I got distracted by watching a documentary about geology called Revenge of the Continents or something.  It was brilliant.  Then today I almost didn't write this as I was stuffing my face with egg fried rice watching Terror in the Skies on 4OD (fasting diet starts tomorrow, I promise).  I mean, who doesn't love a documentary that opens with jerky mobile phone footage of a plane exploding on the runway amid a soothing and not at all hysterical soundtrack of real-life screaming interspersed with the highly-strung voice of our presenter and "aeronatutical engineer" warning of all the ten thousand billion things that can go wrong when flying about in a plane, taking off in a plane, landing in a plane, sitting on the runway in a plane and visiting the airport to pick up a relative emerging from a plane.  Not me certainly.

The moral of this story is that I should probably sell the TV if I ever want to be a writer.

Or maybe I could just write TV reviews.  GOD WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA.  Forget walking, I'm off to start up a TV-reviewing blog all about documentaries that I watched on catch-up whilst eating my dinner.  Totes amazeballs, as they would say on BBC4.

Anyway, as this blog is called "Me and My Hiking Boots" (and yes I do realise that this is a grammatical error.  It's like, cool and ironic innit, like spelling "doughnut" as "donut" or putting "LOL" in a text message) I would hate for anyone to feel that they had been cheated out of a nice post about a good walk and into a piece about exploding bits of fuselage and faulty landing gear, so I shall make like Julia Bradbury in Canal Walks With Julia or whatever that thing on BBC4 is called, and tell you about my walk.

Yesterday I, guide book in hand (HA!  I am invincible world!  I will never get lost again!) set off on the first leg of the London Loop, which is like, bascially the M25 for walkers.  In the sense that it goes around the outside of London in a massive circle anyway, not the sense that it's a death trap full of crazed lunatics with a death wish in big scary cars which will any day now be the subject of a documentary on Channel 5 called Ring of Death: Terror on the Motorway.

When I have finished my TV reviewing blog I foresee that there will be a future for me in Channel 5 factual programming.  It's got to be better than Extreme Fishing with Robson Green.

Anyway, back to the Loop.  It started here.

I know.  The Inca Trail has nothing on this.

I was more than a little bit self-satisfied to note that the Loop is not as well signposted as other London Walks, such as the Capital Ring, and started a long process of self-congratulatory back-slapping with my sensibly-purchased guidebook (I am now officially a SERIOUS HIKER.  Next stop Ordnance Survey), which I was pleased to find described the walk in such detail that I barely even noticed any of it, as I could read all about it in the book.  Before long I found myself here.
Overlooking a rubbish tip in Essex, to be precise.  No sign of Joey Essex or Lauren Google or Mark Fat-Head or any of those other idiots anywhere, I'm happy to report (Joey Essex?  I mean, really?  You may as well call me Mrs Wembley *realises in horror that Mrs Wembley is the name of a character in a terrible 80s sitcom starring Dennis Waterman*).

Anyway, after this lovely scene I went looking for a toilet, as you do.  This is exactly the sort of scene that makes one want to have a toileting moment.
Yes, so I went looking for a toilet, so I did, and I shunned Morrisons, as I thought I might get a better class of a toilet in the nearby shopping centre.  So I asked a woman smoking a fag outside Wilkinsons or some other shop that might have been Woolworths except that it wasn't because Woolworths has closed down, if there was a toilet nearby and she said there was a "cubicle" around the corner.

I wasn't quite sure what I was going to find.  Unless, of course "cubicle" is another word for "top-notch public convenience" in the local dialect of the outer environs of South-East London.

It turned out that she was quite right, it was one of those things that looked a bit like someone had plonked Dr Who's Tardis right in the middle of the street and disguised it to look like one of those terrifying loos you get on the Virgin Trains Pendolino.  The ones with the massive doors that slide across and have to be closed and locked with a scary button that you never quite trust and always think is going to slide open right as you are doing the job itself, revealing you sat on the throne in all your glory in full view of the entire train and most of Manchester Piccadilly, Glasgow Central and London Euston stations.  Indeed, they'll probably be screening it live across the stations of the world, with people watching the action unfold on a big screen in Grand Central, New York and that huge station in Beijing where people get kidnapped for their organs.  It really is that public.

Let's just say I went in and out of that cubicle very quickly.

And onward with the journey.

Look!  A lovely pier.
Apparently people used to come on holiday here back in the day.  Donkey rides, carousels, those telescopes that you always used to stare out to sea through but could never see out of as you had to put about ten pounds in to see anything.  Ah, those were the days!  The glory days of the British Empire those!

And now look at it, a wind turbine and a bridge going to Essex.  Straight into the Sugar Hut I'll wager, for a rendevous with Mark Fat-Head and Lauren Google.  If only we could pin them all to the edges of that wind turbine in a bizarre and gruesome torture worthy of the early Christian martyrs.

Anyway, enough about Essex.  I wasn't going there.  I was going to somewhere called Crayford Marshes.  Here they are.
That in the background there is the yacht club.  It was like Howards Way.  Jack Rolfe was pacing up and down looking moody, Leo was racing around in a powerboat somewhere behind the wind turbine probably about to die-or at least make us think he had until the beginning of the next series-and Avril was running about with a pushchair, being harassed by her overbearing mother.  Then we all sailed off in the Barracuda with Tom and Jan Howard.  It was the best day ever.

Except that it wasn't, because as you can probably tell from the sky, it started raining.  Then when it finally cleared up I had to fight my way through this

There were a LOT of stinging nettles.  And I haven't been stung since I was a child.  I got a rep to protect.

And then I got lost, despite the guidebook, and had to rely on my phone's satnav to guide me back to safety.

Eventually I came across this interesting piece of architecture.
This is Bexley.  Or "Old Bexley" as the guidebook calls it.  The street light looks a bit incongruous.  Like people eating pizza in an episode of Maid Marian and her Merry Men and using flakes from their rancid sores as parmesan.  Anyway, this marked the end of Stage 1 of the London Loop, and there was a train station here although not, regrettably, any trains, as they had all gone off to their sidings for a rest, it being Sunday (like in Thomas the Tank Engine.... OK STOP THE TV REFERENCES!) and I had to catch the Rail Replacement Bus (funny how there was never a Randy the Rail Replacement Bus in Thomas the Tank Engine.  Probably because it was set in those halcyon Golden Days of the pre-Beeching 1950s, when the entire world was a perfect Utopia, people still said hello to you in the street, policemen rode bicycles, people left their doors unlocked and Diesel the Diesel Engine was still seen as the epitome of terrifying modernity.  Good old Thomas would never have left you standing on the pavement in a place called Stonebridge Park with 50,000 other people at 10pm, trying to get home.  Even Grumpy Old Gordon wouldn't have done that).

And I bet those trains had proper toilets too.