On this date one year ago I left the house and went to northwest London. It wasn't a very exciting trip, hence I never blogged about it at the time, there being much more interesting things to write about. But it was much more exciting than any trip I've made for the last ten weeks so I thought I'd write about it now. Excitement, it turns out, is relative.
I took the Central line from Mile End, where trains were running normally and there were no signs outside urging me not to travel. I was aiming for Perivale but alighted at Hanger Lane, because in those days I had a Zone 1-3 Travelcard so it made sense to get off at the limit of validity and do the last mile by bus. It didn't strike me to worry the bus might be overcrowded. Once in Perivale it was quite a hike to get across the A40 dual carriageway via the footbridge. I nearly managed to take a good photo of the tube station's strikingly-curved frontage, but unfortunately a businessman in a blue Toyota had other ideas.
My first target was Horsenden Hill, the highest point in Ealing. I started my ascent beyond the canal bridge, striking out into the trees along a familiar path. One particular dividing line between woodland and open grass cast my mind back thirty years to a world where the sky is burning, the seas sleep and the rivers dream. The final assault on the western flank was the toughest part of the climb, but the view from the summit is always well worth the effort. I love the exhilaration of a good hilltop, there being nothing even vaguely this high anywhere near me in Bow.
I watched the planes landing at Heathrow, which planes did frequently in those days, and kept my distance from the couple with the two dogs. Eventually it was time to head back down. Normally I've followed section 9 of the Capital Ring, which takes a circuitous route through the woods for no particularly enjoyable reason, but on this occasion I decided to follow the steep track down the northern side of the hill. This emerged into a large meadow I'd never encountered before, and very pleasant it was too, although it did mean I reached the boring stretch along the road rather sooner.
Sudbury Hill tube station, or the street immediately outside, marks the point where Ealing meets Brent meets Harrow. These are three boroughs I hadn't visited recently, which is why I was making this semi-pointless journey in the first place. Perhaps I should have been using my freedom more usefully. I nearly popped into Wenzel's for some lunch, because this is not a treat afforded to those of us living in East London, but decided a tuna baguette was unnecessary. This meant I was walking past Sudbury Hill Harrow station when a train pulled in and actually stopped, which I'd never been around to see before.
On the far side of Harrow Road I entered Never Previously Visited London, which is always exciting, and chose to follow Sudbury Court Road to see where it led. It led to some allotments, then to a path into a small parklet perched on top of a delightfully minor hill. It looked like the kind of place only locals knew about, somewhere to take the toddler, walk the dog or smoke a spliff. But it offered a fine view of Wembley Stadium over the rooftops, and way beyond that the BT Tower and the Shard, so I was chuffed to have stumbled upon it.
I'd also never walked along East Lane before, nor caught a bus this way, so this was rapidly turning into a voyage of discovery. North Wembley station looked so unfamiliar that it suddenly dawned on me this was a tube station I'd never previously used, nor even seen from the outside, which wasn't something I believed to be possible. But I had no plans to use North Wembley today because it was in zone 4, so carried on walking until the next bus turned up. It turned up half a mile later. I climbed upstairs touching all the surfaces with abandon.
I wasn't as excited by my top deck trundle through Wembley and Neasden as I would be were I allowed to make the same journey today. Ooh a former town hall, ooh a gyratory, ooh an industrial estate. My bus took half an hour to reach Cricklewood where I finally switched to the train and Thameslinked into St Pancras. The Hammersmith & City line was borked so it took an age to get home, but at least I'd finished my library book by the time I reached Bow Road. And I can only imagine how busy that last journey was, indeed most of the rest of London exists only in my imagination these days.