"You'll be able to walk home along the Greenway, I guess," says BestMate. He has a way of hinting when it's time to go home. Normally it's dark by nine so I take the tube, but not in mid June. In mid-June it's perfectly safe to take the elevated shortcut.
Earlier in the evening I'd walked the Greenway in the opposite direction. Back then it was busy with cyclists and walkers, as well as the devout making their way to prayers at the Canning Road mosque. Plus several dogs. I'm much better than I used to be around dogs, and can now usually walk straight past without inwardly quivering. Tuesday night's were all on leash, thankfully, being that growly-squat-ugly breed that several owners wield as trophies. The Greenway holds no fear for me, not in daylight.
There's always a great view from up here on the sewertop, especially on the stretch past West Ham. The towers of Canary Wharf loom in the middle distance, with the City cluster and Shard spread out across the western horizon. Further round is the Olympic Stadium, poking up behind rows of Plaistow rooftops, then a ruby skeleton that'll one day be the Orbit. Much closer by, at the foot of the embankment, is a recreation ground where evening teens slouch and kick about. All of east London is here, if you look around.
Where the railway passes beneath the pipework, a street-art gallery holds sway. The walls of the bridge are cyclically spray-painted - sometimes bright and talented, other times derivative and taggy. Often you'll see the latest artist erasing the previous masterpiece by waving his aerosols deftly across the concrete canvas. On this particular evening none of that, just a photographer and his model taking advantage of the edgy urban backdrop in the evening sun.
But that was earlier, on the walk down. The sun's much lower for my return, now a fiery red behind the rooftops. And the Greenway's much emptier too. One late-strolling couple approaching and a gang of kids playing in the distance, nobody more. Another quarter of an hour and I'd think twice about walking this way - too dark, and the escape-route exits too widely spaced. But midsummer dusk is not yet upon us, so there's still a comfort blanket of natural illumination to reassure me.
Those kids look busy - gesturing, interacting, cavorting. I hope they'll have moved on by the time I reach their benchside arena, I'd feel more secure that way, but something about their actions suggests they're intent on staying put. As I get closer I sense they're up to something much more physical, but their blurry shapes run off into the nearby estate long before it's possible to deduce precisely what. I smile, relieved at this sudden departure, and continue into the newly freed-up space.
A limping couple have been left behind. At first I assume they're elderly but no, they're two boys, late teens max. One is holding the other, an arm around the waist, plus a second arm to the forehead. He's holding that forehead very tight, as if there might be a fountain waiting to spring forth should grip ever be released. As I finally draw level I'm shocked to see that this is precisely the case. Blood masks one entire side of the second boy's face, from forehead downwards, plastering his dazed look with glistening red. Whatever those kids were doing, it wasn't playing.
Three keypresses on a concerned bystander's mobile will help to stem the flow. In the background, low to the horizon, the sun flames crimson.