It seemed a little unnecessary that at the base of Viking towers there was a smouldering settee, more so that two kids where dancing round it. Moving on down to the main road a real Viking roars up on his three wheeler Hog. In effort to keep in with the natives I give him the sign \m/ and he laughs a gappy smile and returns it, his shaven haired slightly wizened shield maiden clutching to the pillion does the same as they roar off as the lights changed.
I cross the steady stream of the Woolwich rd and wander down towards the Thames. In a 60’s paved courtyard stands a chestnut tree underneath in his Sunday best is a skinny young black kid. He is intently stamping on the conkers but instead of picking up the glistening burnished nuts he just stamps on them and occasionally gobs on the nutty mush.
"The Royalist Democrat"
Right down next to the river the tides in. This bit of Woolwich is well “tooled up”; two huge guns stand ready one pointing downstream to see off any marauding “Gallicans” (“Frenchies” to the rest of us) and the other making sure Tate & Lyle aren’t getting too uppity across on the north bank. It’s a shady spot so I sit for a while watching the car ferry load, when up scampers two excitable king Charles spaniels towing behind them a puffing “Greek” guy. He fusses with them for a moment and then sits down next to me and they jump on his lap. Feeling sociable I ask their names. Holding the head of one of the dogs he gentle sort of shakes its head as if it were talking and says without any irony “dis ones Dodi” and patting the other dog “and dis ones Diana”. I praise their cuteness and get a lick for my reward. He continues “We had Dodi done“
I reply that this was probably wise
He continues “it’s nice down here now. it used t’be covered in Johnnies and broken glass but w’ complained to the council and dey cleared it up. “
“Power to the people” I reply
“Tis true it’s important to keep ‘em on der toes” he said with a chuckle
I nod my agreement
With that he slowly gets up and we say goodbye, the dogs jump down and he wanders off.
Where our royalist democrat was sitting written in marker is “I f*ckd Kaycee on this bench” underneath in another hand there’s a reply “pity your knob was small” I take this as a cue to wander off myself.
It’s a bit annoying on this stretch as you have to double back through the estate after a short distance and the only interest in the estate was to see the number of people smoking gaspers on their doorsteps it’s that sort of a day, chain smoking weather.
"No Caps or Trainers no customers"
From here through the path swerves through edges of Woolwich past a few sheds and warehouses and I came across a grim maroon bar covered in swirly plaster. On the door is a long list of what can’t be worn in the bar etc. What owners of places that have this sort list don’t seem to grasp is that the sort of drinker who goes there would start a ruck in a nudist camp. I was about to take a picture when the “gunvor” comes out and tells me I need permission, it didn’t look like the sort of occasion to argue the toss so I wander off. Funnily enough the pub just up on the corner that didn’t have a grim list of rules on the door and had a row of books for customers to read in the window was full with happy looking punters.
Further down there was another pub with amongst other attractions “exotic dancers”. Rather a coy term in this day and age when they have strippers on Eastenders and wouldn’t it be nice if they were really “exotic” like some whirling dervishes say or perhaps Balinese women with intricate hand dances or maybe just Sylvie Guillem! After taking some pictures of another sadly distressed closed pub it was time to marvel at the Thames barrier (again).
another Eden another Jordan
From the barrier upstream the riverbank is handed over to the sorts of things people like to keep at arm’s length so we have yards full of gritter lorries and another filled with the sound of stag parties racing go-carts oh and a charismatic church. Outside the chapel (housed in an old 60’s office block) a small lad was bouncing a tennis ball on the steps trying to hit each step in order, while the sound of his parents singing floods out across the empty yards and down on to the path and out onto the brown Thames.
Having not tasted or at least not learnt from the tree of knowledge I took a bite of little apple from a riverside tree. To say it was sour is an understatement it was like oral smelling salts. The fruit curiously brought me wide awake even while I was hacking up bits of its gritty flesh. Suitably enlivened I stroll along the bleakly atomic Nagasaki and Hiroshima Ways (god bless nuclear free Greenwich!) to the Hope and Anchor (a cheery un-reconstructed pub).
On the river terrace large plates of lunch where being brought out, the sort of roasts with an excess of veg and dark sticky gravy they looked good. Sitting in the sun next to the river was wonderful, all the benches around were filled with a happy mixture of dressed up families, chatting locals and people walking/riding the Thames path (they even had a turn on). Revived by an icy cider the path heads into a dramatic alley hemmed in with metal fences separating huge mounds of gravel and Sainsbury’s sheds. It’s a recycling yard and it’s all quite impressive with flying conveyors and teetering mounds of chewed up asphalt. On one of the path’s dog legs there’s a guy painting he’s perversely chosen the yachts on the river for his subject, get with plan mate rubble is where it’s at.
After that I pass up the chance for a flat gin and tonic at the yacht club open house day and watch a 3 master slide past on the unlikely named stretch named Mudlark Boulevard which is over shadowed in by a row of post modern millennium flats and Mr Posh Spice’s footy school.
A bit further down towards the Dome I take a pew to have a look at the Gormley sculpture when up jogs a female runner. Almost immediately she’s does the annoying thing all runners do which was to do a stretchy thing with her legs and then tell me she’s just done “7 k”. As usual I never know what to do with this piece of information should I leap up and grab her and parade around the path in triumph, or strike a medal or maybe castigate her for not doing 12, what? In the end I did a sort of head shake/nod thing that sort looked impressed I hoped. She obviously didn’t care and waving 2 donuts shaped pink drinking bottles she adds apropos nothing “rehydration, amazin’ how much a few extra pounds adds to your work out”. I fear she didn’t want to hear about my throbbing feet so I do the head thing again. She then switches to straighten the other leg and without another word is off again. Off to run back to her flat to skype her boyfriend in Geneva and then to have something prawny and coconutty for supper while finishing “that” report while listening to Coldplay. She’ll be getting excited for when Swiss boys firm flies him in next weekend and they can go running together and then go out for prawny coconutty food and maybe come back and listen to Keane this time or have I just defamed the lead singer of Charlton’s only femcore agit prop salsa band?
In a bit of grump I trudge off (resisting the temptation to stop people to tell them how far I’ve walked and that I’ve just had a drink of water).I’m on the tip of the Peninsular now and The Domes is busy with people taking down Ben Hur extravaganza. I’d hoped to see straining slaves loading a galleon with elephants but in the end it was bored looking blokes in big gloves and hi-vis vests loading up artics with cheap looking chariots.
It’s a bit of shame about the Dome I use to like it when it was all weedy and empty it was a nice hubristic monument! The next bit of the path is still however reassuring messed up full of broken concrete, piles of sand and big muddy puddles. There’s even a gas plant that makes the most horrendous stink, it is remarkably smelly. Sadly they are building more flats next door and have started to tidy up the ramshackled old shipyard. (These new flats must be for the olfactorly challenged presumably).Dusk and more cider
Back in the chi-chi terraced streets of east Greenwich I am in need of more cider so I stop at the “Georgian free house” named after a Scottish witch and have a pint.
After that it was past the tube power station and on to Trinity Alms House. In front of which a beautiful Asian girl is having her picture taken by her boyfriend. She’s radiant in a blue and white sari and a million of shiny bangles her long black hair framing a beaming smile. I go over and offer to take their pictures and she tells me they’ve just got engaged so I offer my congratulations. She’s so excited she’s bouncing on the bench her bangles jingling a way. Her beau looks less than impressed in the close up I take (which by the way shows “must be a professional”) so the boyfriend gets a dig in the ribs (the first of many to come!) and eventually we both get him to smile and I hand the camera back and wish them luck again, as I turn the corner she’s still bouncing up and down.It’s dusk now and Greenwich is winding down a bit, the ice cream van is packing up, the last tin of Highland shortbread is being sold in M&S. On Creek road a fresh gaggle of students are wandering in from Deptford presumably to spend their loans on breezers and noodles. So as the lights come all I have to do is dodge some fleeing “Hoody” lads on the high street and wander through the park past a couple chatting and drinking quietly on a bench. In the orange light the smell of a wood fire is wafting over a nearby fence. Turning into my road and into our block I gratefully and little wearily climb the stairs and turn the key