It was my arrival in Ickenham on Sunday, when I'd already been there on Saturday, which made me question what I was doing with my weekend. It's my own fault. I said I'd walk London's unlost rivers this year, and the Pinn turned out to be rather longer than anticipated. Around teatime on Saturday I realised I wasn't going to get all the way to the end in one go, and I had Sunday free, so I decided I had to come back. My own fault for being a completist.
And then I wrote the whole thing up too fast. Dashing through a 12 mile walk in a single post meant writing an over-concise summary and missing out too much detail in the process, when I could have dragged things out for longer. I decided to save you from excess outer suburban reportage, you'll be glad to hear, but in the process shot my weekend bolt early. It's only Tuesday but I've already run out of adventures to tell you about, which can't be good.
So I thought I'd dredge through the unreported parts of my weekend hike in case there was anything else worth discussing, something even those of you who live outside Harrow and Hillingdon might find interesting.
Talking Point 1: In Wealdstone I spotted my first political billboard of the campaign. We don't get them in Bow, we're not marginal enough, but Harrow East is a bellwether so the parties are splashing their cash where it might actually matter. Seeing the poster rather rubbed it in that my vote is essentially wasted, whereas voters in Harrow have the future of the country in their hands. I looked carefully for Boris in Uxbridge town centre, but of his flaxen locks there was no sign.
Talking Point 2: (Hot Topic!) Throughout my walk I spotted far more personalised numberplates than I'd expected in Outer London, often pairs from the same series parked up in the front garden displaying a matching display of intials. Someone in Hatch End even had OWL 8OT on the back of a blue Citroën, for reasons I didn't like to ask. Personalised numberplates are fun, obviously, and an intriguing status symbol, but it's amazing what ultimately pointless fripperies some people will spend/waste large amounts of money on.
Talking Point 3: Ooh isn't it nice out at the moment? Not just the warm weather, which is lovely after the cool spring we've had, but the leaves and particularly the blossom bursting out. I love this time of year as trees suddenly burst into a cloud of green, pink and white. It's beautiful isn't it, but alas wholly temporary, as wind and gravity conspire to end the colourful display. How many weekends of blossom perfection do we normally get, is it one, two or three? Still, at least it's bluebells next.
Talking Point 4: The streets of Pinner, Ruislip and Hillingdon are lined by what were once thought perfectly ordinary semi-detached houses, but I couldn't afford to live in any of them. That's despite me growing up in something similar, and having a decent wage that's higher in real terms than my Dad's was at my age. London is increasingly a housing accumulator it's impossible to join, and when even Ickenham in Zone 6 is impossible to access then something's very wrong indeed.
Talking Point 5: I popped into the corner shop in Eastcote in search of a snack, and was shocked to see that packets of crisps were on sale at 95p each. Surely this can't be the going rate for a bag of Walkers, or even close? I can get a six pack from an ordinary supermarket for no more than double that. Admittedly these bags might have been fractionally larger than normal, but not by much, and nowhere near enough to justify a near-£1 price point. I ended up with a fresh pain au chocolat for 25p less.
Talking Point 6: Walking past an amateur football match somewhere in Ruislip, I was struck by the level of commitment needed to play in a sports team on a regular basis. Whilst other Londoners are sleeping in, or looking after the children, or pootling off down to the supermarket, or vanishing off to the seaside on a whim, this lot devote umpteen Saturdays a year to being there for the match, and not always anywhere near home. Their dedication is impressive, or is their lack of imagination somewhat constraining?
Talking Point 7: The owner of a newsagent in Hillingdon was reading the Sunday papers when I dropped in to buy a chocolate bar. She failed to notice me for ten seconds, so engrossed was she in the behavioural horrors her tabloid was reporting, then looked up with an anxious eye. "Isn't this awful?" she said, attempting to draw me into her pessimistic view of the world, conjured up by the scaremongering journalists whose fiction she sells. What's awful here, I thought but didn't say, is that you believe this crap and take it to heart. I bought a Snickers and left her to fear, unnecessarily strongly, for the future of society.
Talking Point 8: (Hot Topic!) There was a man in Yiewsley taking his kitten for a walk. Is this a thing? It wasn't on a leash, but he'd deliberately taken the tiny black creature to the foot of the meadows near Philpot's Bridge, and was letting it explore the undergrowth unaided. As I approached he scooped the kitten up for protection, its green eyes fixed on me over the man's shoulder as I passed. And then he put it back down, and it crept off hesitantly into the long grass while the man stood and watched. Seriously, is this a thing?
Talking Point 9: The Grand Union towpath in Yiewsley was packed with walkers, and dawdling families, and folk on bikes. I'll bet it was the pleasant weather brought them out. But I was struck by the sharp contrast between the busy towpath and the all the previous miles of waterside path I'd trodden, and the paucity of people thereon. Why is it that London's rivers (Thames and Lea excepted) are generally overlooked, while artificial waterways draw the crowds? Is this because canals have a good press so everyone knows where they are, is it the fact that you can't get lost walking along one, or is the main draw the near-certainty that the towpath won't be a muddy quagmire?
Talking Point 10: (Hot Topic!) I got home at the end of the day with my phone battery on 1%, despite having been afraid to over-use it earlier for fear it might conk out. One day I'm sure we'll look back on the "phone battery anxiety" era in the same way we now laugh at dial-up broadband. For goodness sake can't someone invent a smartphone you don't have to switch on sparingly, and which lasts from leaving the house to getting home?