A day by the river and a nostalgic surprise
Well, what a day twenty seven Saturdays ago was. I couldn’t wait to type the day’s festivities straight into WordPress, but had to as I got so excited at the prospect that I kept walking up and down my room holding my breath, shaking my hands and letting my heart skip beats. I would normally either write it down on paper or use Microsoft Word first, but no, this was different.
”So come on, what happened?” you’ve just thought. What didn’t happen would be the easier question to answer. Na, I’ll answer what did happen. Erm…………………………………………………………….
Ah yeah, went to Hainault to look at a flat in Fencepiece Road that I did not end up looking at. I knew I wasn’t going to take it even if I liked it, but it’s a good experience and test for other places, in opening my eyes to something that I might not have considered for future viewings. Turning left from Hainault underground station (which, incredibly for me, was the right direction towards the flat) I got that paranoid feeling one gets when not knowing where they are going in an area they haven’t been in before. I thought that everyone who was around were looking at me thinking, ”who’s this weirdo? There’s something strange about him. He’s not from round here” Or in other words, ”he’s up to no good – I bet he’s seeking out houses to burgle.” They were just a few of the things that were going through my head as I traipsed down the street.
Just before I reached the address I saw two men working outside it; one bald with brown hair either side of his beige patch save for a few hairs in the middle of it; the other, dark blonde. Both were wearing black polo shirts and greeny grey trousers (forgive me, I’m a fair bit colour blind) having a jolly good laugh. The door was open (possibly, other people were inside looking at the flat with the view to renting it out), but I walked past it towards an Aldi instead.
I was in Hainault, but it had an Ilford post code, and this Aldi looked like one I had come across in Ilford (or was it Barking? I’m talking to myself there, it’s not a question for you). So…I walked past the entrance to see if there was a magic passage to Ilford’s high street at the back of the park, whilst looking at my phone – an action that can help disguise any kind of ‘abnormal’ behaviour – but for some perverse reason this magic passage to Ilford didn’t exist.
Well, that was fun. Off I went back to the train station where I intended to get the Central Line to Stratford then the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich in order to, wait for it… achieve my dream of being aboard a river bus! It had been a lofty ambition of mine for over a year. Once I reached North Greenwich I walked towards one of the many destinations of my dream (‘many’ because there are many places where I can get on a River Bus such as the London Eye, Chelsea Harbour…not on weekends for the latter, apparently).
As usual the surroundings of the O2 are heaving, but as I walked past the pictures of Paul McCartney, Elton John, Rihanna, Andy Murray and others that are plastered on the side of the building to demonstrate the grandeur and importance of the place, the atmosphere got quieter. Following the sign for RIVER SERVICES, swerving alleyways created by blue hoardings and metal fencing protecting a building site led me to my dream. Not the most glamorous voyage to one’s dream, but this was my dream.
I saw a queue of people and heard shouting up ahead, the latter of which turned out to be one of the River Bus service employees. The ticket queues were bossed by a typically loud fat middle-aged woman wearing a white shirt and black trousers with bleached blonde hair, stuffing her face with prawn crackers. Not exactly sure what their general feelings were towards fishy snacks, but she would have made a good Nazi back in da day.
The timetables are confusing (well, to a numpty like me anyway). Despite two listings saying there’ll be a bus coming in 7 and 14 minutes respectively, I was told there would be a 40 minute wait for the next one leaving North Greenwich pier. During that time I wasted it by spending around 20 minutes looking for a cash machine then going back into the O2 building into All Bar One to have a Bellini – that’s Prosecco combined with a fruit puree of one’s choice; either raspberry, strawberry or white peach. I went for the peach purely because I rarely eat that fruit.
I took a high seat by the window and viewed the sights, namely a scene of a man in his 60s clutching a selfie stick and lining it up in front of him to capture himself and another man in beige golf trousers plus two women of a similar age, but who were sporting dissimilar leg-wear to the males of the piece. I wondered if there was anything more tragic than a man in his 60s in possession of a selfie stick. I asked my friend – who I was replying to about something else – this via WhatsApp and he answered with ”a man in his 60s who lost (my italics) his selfie stick.” I responded that the older man would be doing himself a favour in that case!! HAW HAW! My, we’re a funny pair when we get going. Nutters!
On the subject of these monstrosities, the first time I saw one was on New Year’s Day 2015 by the river near Tower of London. It was held by a Chinese looking boy in his teens or early 20s wearing glasses and a dyed browny blondey goldy ‘year 3’ haircut (bowl on top/curtains, shaved around the back and sides, or what you may call a ‘step’) taking photo after photo of himself, positioning his hair in between each one. What a knob. I hoped the stick would fall in at the very least.
Amy Winehouse’s Rehab played out of the speakers. Her story ended tragically. And then there was me: a 28 year old man about to go on a River Bus on his own wearing a creased shirt – which is pretty tragic in itself. But anyway, enough self indulgence on my part, let’s get onto my river boat dream. I’m gonna skip to the bit when I’m in the queue.
Everyone in the queue appeared to be with someone else, but I’m sure it’s normal to go on a river bus by one’s self. We were in one queue, showed our ticket to the Nazi – who surprisingly let through some Chinese tourists – then walked down that slope you can see on the right in the photo before the last one to get in another queue while we waited for the next boat to come through. Whilst doing this I did something I don’t normally do: I filmed a video on my phone. I was that excited.
When the boat/bus thing we had been waiting for finally arrived I could hardly contain my excitement. I stood in the queue looking at the people coming out of the vehicle save for a few glances over them, to my side, behind me, at the river…pretending not to be affected, but inside I was feeling like a penis waiting for the rather nice looking stripper to do more than just prance around three foot in front of him. The last person reached the end of the slopey plank thing that comes from the boaty, bussy thing and we were off. I got inside and was surprised to learn that it was and probably still is a little like a lounge bar. I went in the middle somewhere and got a seat by a window. It was all most exciting. I won’t be able to put it into words or do justice to the brilliant time I had by jabbering on here so I will leave a few photographs instead. ‘Show, don’t tell’ and all that.
I’d show you more, but I don’t want you all getting insane with jealousy or jealous with rage, so I will leave it there for the River Bus.
Last stop was the London Eye Pier. It ended sooner than I would have liked, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable. As usual the South Bank was crammed with people. I went left or whichever way towards London Bridge is and came across the usual stuff that has been documented many times elsewhere on the internet.
I had a look at the book stalls, had a rummage and bought We Declare: Landmark Documents in Ireland’s History and two by Spike Milligan – ”Rommel? ”Gunner Who?”: A Confrontation in the Desert and The Bedside Milligan – Or Read Your Way to Insomnia. Only just over halfway through Landmark Documents… I have read other books since then just in case you’re thinking of ‘having a go’. I was then stopped in my tracks by a crowd gathering to watch an old bloke making sculptors with sand.
Well, that was enough fun and games for one day. Anymore and I might have had a coronary. So I got the Jubilee Line from London Bridge to Stratford, read The Bedside Milligan… on the way, then took the Central Line from there to Leyton. But wait, there was still fun and games to come. No, not drinking and drugging myself into oblivion with some ‘beautiful people’. No, something better and worthwhile that makes living on this planet at all tolerable.
A mere two roads to the right of Leyton station I came across a very rare thing indeed that made an already remarkable day that little bit more exceptional. And here’s the evidence.
I really was taken aback. It’s rare to see fresh excrement on pavements these days, but the very crusty dry kind are nearly as infrequent as living dodos. They (very dry crusty poos) may have been common before the 1990s, but I only have one memory of the 1980s. I do however recall much of the ’90s, the 2000s and the 2010s, and this was a very ’90s moment.
Poo on pavements – which I’m assuming to be those of a dog, cat or fox – was very much a pre-2000s phenomenon, like fax machines. And cars stopping at zebra crossings (although there was plenty of shite on the streets of the otherwise beautiful Vienna when I went there in November 2010). As I said, I’m assuming that poo we see or have seen on pavements have made their journey through the anus of a dog, cat or fox, but if you go back far enough in time – or travel far enough to somewhere like Clacton today – then you would likely come across human crap every day in the street. To me, dry turds on pavements are as ’90s as TLC and a lad with a gelled-down fringe wearing an over-sized Ben Sherman listening to Oasis on his Sports Walkman. One day, hopefully, I will be aboard a River Bus again, but will make it an even more adventurous journey by getting off at Chelsea Harbour. Seeing a crusty turd on the pavement wouldn’t go amiss either, although I wouldn’t like to make a habit of it.