diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 21, 2012

Random borough (33): After eight long years, it's time for me to take my final trip to one of London's 33 boroughs. This time I know precisely which borough name will be revealed when I unfold the slip of paper I'm about to pick from my "special jamjar", because there's only one slip of paper left. I know it won't be Merton, Islington, Enfield, Sutton, Lewisham, Southwark, Kensington & Chelsea, Hackney, Hillingdon, the City, Bromley, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Hounslow, Brent, Redbridge, Ealing, Harrow, Croydon, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Greenwich, Richmond, Kingston, Westminster, Newham, Camden, Bexley, Havering or Hammersmith & Fulham or Barnet, because they're the thirty-two boroughs I've picked out already. No, this time it's got to be Barking and Dagenham.

I've been steeling myself for Barking and Dagenham ever since I first set out on this round-London safari. It's been lurking in my jamjar since 2004, like some kind of bogey-borough, but somehow I've never picked it out before. We've made a joke of it over the years, haven't we, speculating how underwhelming the experience might be and how there might not be much to write about. This is the occasion I finally get to find out.

This random borough's different because I know where I'm going in advance. All the others, honest, I've not had a clue before the day. I've woken on each Saturday entirely ignorant, then had to research and visit and start the write-up in 24 hours flat. This time I've had three months to prepare, even if only subconsciously, so my Barking and Dagenham itinerary's pretty much mapped out.

But rest assured it's still very definitely a random visit. My final borough may have been fixed since I picked Barnet as my penultimate selection, but any borough could have unfolded last when I started out. Barking and Dagenham always had a one in thirty-three chance of being my final destination, just as it had a one in thirty-three chance of being first.

You won't find very much written about Barking and Dagenham on this blog. I've deliberately avoided the borough over the last eight years, thinking I'd best save its meagre highlights for the weekend it finally emerges. I relented once to gawp at Dagenham Dock, and stopped by very recently to meet Titanic survivor Eva Hart, but that's about it. But I've stayed away too long, far too long if I'm honest, so it'll be good to finally dig in.

I'll confess I've broken my usual rules by visiting one particular B&D attraction already. It only opens two Saturdays a month, and not this one, and I absolutely couldn't miss the place out. So I stopped by earlier, and as a bonus got to spend far longer there than my busy random borough schedule usually allows. Even in that quick burst, I can already guarantee that Barking and Dagenham won't be the most tedious London borough I've visited, not by a long chalk.

So, my randomly-chosen borough is already researched. All that remains is to head off this morning, dodge the showers and visit some of its most interesting places. As usual I hope to visit somewhere famous, somewhere historic, somewhere pretty, somewhere retail, somewhere sporty and somewhere random, plus maybe a few bonus locations alongside. I plan to take lots of photographs while I'm at it, if the rain relents. Then after I've made my grand tour I'll come back tomorrow and tell you all about it. Expect a longer than usual write-up, if you're lucky, as I finally get round to exploring Barking and Dagenham properly. It's time to unfold the known, and enter the unknown. Bring it on...

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