Sunday, May 08, 2005

Beckton and Back

I'm really not sure I know where the suggestion came from but I do know I made it. Why don't I borrow my sister's bike and we can go for a ride somewhere? Colin nearly peed himself laughing (he does more than enough exercise for the two of us put together; I do very little). Nothing like a bit of doubt in my abilities to make me come out fighting.

I spoke to dad about collecting the bike (see below - this conversation took place on the Number 8 bus). K's bike has a part missing and is not at home. W's is knackered. Mum's has a puncture and is the right size for a midget. W had dad's as he had consumed so much alcohol the night before that he was concerned he was still over the limit at midday. Knowing Colin would say these were all just excuses I thought I'd better take a risk on mum's. The heavens opened as we (sorry, dad) pumped up the tyre and raised the seat. Bundled it into the back of the car and I was off.

And, didn't I do well? About 9 miles all told. Bloody fantastic as it's the first time I've got on a bike in about, err, six or seven years. Colin gave my last bike away to someone who might actually use it.

I got to the end of the street without incident but then was faced with the flyover or the twisty turny pedestrian ramp. Flyover = dangerous when you've just got on the bike; ramp = impossibly steep for an unfit novice. My shout of "I'm walking up this" was met with a withering I-knew-this-was-going-to-happen type look. First obstacle overcome there was no stopping me.

The A13 now has a rather nice green cycle path on the pavement which took us to East Ham and the entrance of the Greenway. We turned left to see how far it would take us; the answer not very - Galleons Reach. Admittedly I had wondered whether I'd get any further than Beckton and back. Crossing over the numerous lanes of traffic, we headed in the direction of Stratford. When people mention the London Borough of Newham nature doesn't spring very easily to mind. But here it is - birds (including a very majestic heron), butterflies (cabbage whites and red admirals), plants, two of the fattest, biggest fish I have ever seen (likely to be carp) and even a rabbit.

Surprisingly, we saw very few people given the weather is lovely (yep, I'm now burnt) and it's a Bank Holiday. A few bikes, couples strolling along, men with dogs. A very English afternoon.

Graffiti has a good classical past (we have borrowed, as have the French and many others, the word from Italian. Graffito was first used to describe an insrciption on the walls of Pompei). Nowadays a graffito fills many with dread. Tags are acts of vandalism pure and simple but there are some very talented people wielding spray cans out there.

Opposite the rugby club in West Ham we discovered two complete walls of graffiti.

I've seen a lot of graffiti as art in France and Germany before but not really in Britain. I wonder how long each graffito remains in place. Are you supposed to paint over the top of someone else's? There must be a form of spray can etiquette.

Lunch was a sandwich and packet of crisps from Tesco at Bromley By Bow. An old haunt.

The stench of rotten mud was overwhelming as we approached the river. The tide being out the tyres and rubbish were on display.

A local couple sat with their child and dog a little further up under a willow. The staff/mongrel, Lady, would race up to certain people, stop and bark very aggressively, pinning the unfortunate passers-by in place until collected by her owners. I was confused at first - there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to her outbursts until I realised none of the people she had tried to intimidate were white. Taught behaviour or just a strange dog?

We did attempt a short distance on the canal tow path but I had visions of ending up in the water. The path is so narrow and overgrown that we were brushing against the nettles and bushes on either side releasing all kinds of critters in our wake. The return path was definitely going to be by Greenway.

A couple of hours on the people had changed. The old people sat on benches and women undertaking their daily constitutionals had been replaced by whole families on mini motors (complete with mini leathers and crash helmets) driving rather dangerously up the path.

I made it home exhausted but happy. When's the next outing, Colin?
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