This time, however, due to the unusual luxury of being able to go on a weekday, the station was in full working order, and I was home within an hour and a half (oh the joys of South London being really, really far away).
One thing about walking on a weekday, though, is that everyone is at work, so the paths are deserted. Brilliant if you don't want to spend all day dodging small children and dogs (although there were still quite a few of the latter), not so good if you want to engage in conversation with the locals, find out their thoughts on local bus services, etc. Although the suburban periphery of South London is in fairness probably not as deep a well of hilarity as the more remote villages of the Thames Path seem to be.
There are of course also places that seem to come into their own on weekdays, where you really get a feel for the local area when the place is swarmed with the elderly, the unemployed and construction workers digging stuff up. One of these places is my own beloved Wembley, where the other day I was asked for directions to the Jobcentre and then came to the aid of a stranded cleaner who had found herself trapped in my apartment building and was very distressed at the prospect of having to spend all day walking round the courtyard trying to find a way out. We have all been in that situation. The highlight of that particular excursion, however, was when dropping some items off at the charity shop, I witnessed a scramble to get served at the till which was so intense I thought a fight was going to break out. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Austerity Britain, where the population of Wembers is so hard-up it gets into scraps in St Luke's Hospice over an old pair of tracksuit bottoms. The future really is bleak.
Anyway, I digress, for Bexley, I am happy to report, was not like that. Bexley was actually pretty nice. The first part of the walk took me across an old landfill site (glamour indeed!) to a really rather nice park which was populated by middle class mothers having picnics with their children, then a brief interlude of streets and houses with a Lidl (Austerity Britain spreads its tentacles into the Outer Suburban Hinterland) and a young mother having a conversation with her neighbour about how she had had to break into her own house the other day after locking herself out- "I was trying to get in through the cat flap, and all the neighbours were there taking pictures on their phones! I'm all covered in bruises today!"
Good to see the concept of neighbourly concern is alive and well in South London. Then again, perhaps they thought she was a burglar and were trying to gather evidence. There were a lot of "Danger! Neighbourhood watch!" signs around with pictures of meerkats on. After all, a handy pack of meerkats is exactly what you would need if your house was being burgled.
I pressed on, and soon reached Sidcup, which has an old house in a park which has handily been turned into the sort of pub where elderly people go to have an Earlybird meal on a Friday afternoon which was, naturally, just the time I had arrived. After enjoying that classic Mediterranean combination "lasagne and chips" with a slice of a certain kind of garlic bread that comes in a ready-made, plastic-sealed frozen and pre-chopped baguette, I headed off for the latter part of the walk, which was basically a massive trek through some woods. Loads and loads of endless bloody woods.
Sidcup House. Haute cuisine for the elderly Earlybird connosieur
Now I like the woods. The woods (no woods are ever referred to by name, all are simply known as "the woods") are where I spent much of my childhood, attempting to cross ankle-deep streams without getting wet and feeling as though I had just kayaked the length of the Amazon by doing so, introducing reluctant parents to the joys of crossing said streams and enjoying what was quite possibly the single most hilarious highlight of my entire childhood when they fell in (legendary moment Dad), but when it comes to simply walking through them, they can get a bit boring. After all, there's not much of a view and walking through the woods simply isn't as interesting as running through them as a child, climbing things and finding buried treasure (unfortunately the buried treasure we usually found was porn magazines. One of the most brilliant things about the internet is surely that one never has to worry about porn in the woods anymore, as clearly whoever looks at it now has a much more easily disguised source of titillation that never needs to visit the woods and never would, due to the fact that most woods still haven't been activated with free wi-fi).
Anyway, I somehow managed to find my way through the myriad of woodland tracks without getting lost and eventually found my way out of the woods and into what the London Loop guidebook describes as "Trainspotter's Paradise," meaning this.
A railway bridge. Over this
In reality there were three railway bridges, but I took a picture of this one as it was the least health and safety conscious, i.e. the only one without a thorough covering of barbed wire. Compared with the other two this looked like something from The Railway Children. I half expected to see a young Jenny Agutter running down the track with a red flag as a steam train chugged behind, cloaking us all in a great black blanket of soot.
Shortly after crossing the many bits of track, I arrived in Petts Wood where a teenage girl was standing outside the station looking terrified as her friend came to meet her.
"Are there ants here?" she enquired gingerly. "Yes," her friend answered.
"Are they the flying ones? I'm scared!"
Aren't we all. Surely the apacalypse itself will be heralded by a plague of flying ants.
When I got home, I discovered that I had been bitten all over my legs, despite wearing leggings. Bloody woods. Bloody flying ants.