Apr. 10th, 2016

millionreasons: (marnie)
We heard about Did on the platform of West Ham station. The train pulled in and we got on it, in the absence of a clear idea of what else to do. We were going to Rainham marshes, a wetland and RSPB sanctuary in Essex, although when we looked over the river to the south we could see Erith, which is in London (Bexley) and then over there, the city.


It felt un-Londony though, people were polite, no-one tried to steal our bikes. We sat outside and had lunch on the first hot day of the year and then cycled on the Thames path back to Rainham, past concrete barges and wildlife. I liked the topography, the industrial mixed with the rural.


On the Monday, we met up with [livejournal.com profile] picosgemeos and walked from Camden along the canal to Limehouse. It was supposed to be a 6.5 mile stroll but turned out nearer 8 once we'd walked around Limehouse basin looking for Ian McKellens' pub, which we found and it was adorable but unfortunately very small with all seats taken by locals or others who wanted to see Gandalf's staff (not a euphemism, it's behind the bar). I've done the Hackney section of the canal many a time, but the Mile End to Limehouse section was less known. Again, it's the industrial past mixed with the open space that's attractive. Growing up in rural Doncaster, I appreciate the need for emptiness, calm, greenery, but I never expect the countryside to be pure trees, just fields, it needs to have some kind of proof of people, habitation, progress.

Last weekend we met up with El and various others to do a tour of Forest Hill, her new manor. Living in Camberwell in the late 90s, I visited SE23 to go to the Horniman museum to see the overstuffed walrus and the other taxidermy, but I've nver walked around the back streets, never seen the art-deco houses, the view from Crofters Hill, the little pubs opposite weird breakers' yards.

It was only about five miles of walking but it helped. I can't run, swimming requires organisation, yoga costs £10 a pop, walking just is. You put on some shoes and set off. The clearer air, the Vitamin D, the exercise helps the mind relax.

On Friday we got up early and took the train to Hartlepool. Moving house and bereavement are supposed to be two of the most stressful things you can experience (in the safe western world at least, people in Syria might beg to differ) and combined with PMT, I didn't have the best week. We found out that we'd finally exchanged contracts on the side of the A road from Hartlepool to Headland, where Did's wake/party/Didfest was to take place. We visited the Hartlepool museum which told us that West Hartlepool (the town) and old Hartlepool (the former docks) only merged in the 1960s, before that they were two separate village. We also learned - to my crushing disappointment - that the monkey hanger story isn't true, it's a music hall song and was picked up by the West Hartlepuddlians to taunt the old Hartlepuddlians. I felt like my dad when he found out that the farm in the middle of the M62 is not there because of the farmer's Yorkshire stubbornness.

We had some lunch in a caff in 1976 (beans on toast - £1.70) and went onto the pub where Didfest was held. There were about 200 people there to celebrate Did's life, photos, a slide show, food, drink, music, singing, dancing. I found it very strange that he wasn't there. I know it's a common thought to wish someone could be at their own funeral to see how much they were loved, but I just kept expecting him to turn up. His friends were there, why wasn't he there? It made no sense.

We ended the night dancing to the Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop. Hey ho. Let's go.

In the morning, we walked around the Headland to the Heugh Battery, which is the site of the only WW1 battle on English soil. It was full of tanks and guns and old men. Afterwards, we took the bus into town. Hartlepool is not in good nick: the high street shops were charity and pawn, the shopping centre included Brighthouse and Poundland, although we did find a nice tea shop for lunch. It feels like Hartlepool needs to make more of its history - there were attempts to do son on the Georgian headland with monkeys and um, Andy Capp, but there was nobody there. At the battery, a woman complained that the tanks and artillery only come out on Remembrance Day "which is a shame". The place did make me feel like I wanted to go read Wilfred Owens' collected works, but people love all that war stuff, don't they? Red arrows fly-pasts, our finest hour blah blah. The headland was a beautiful, empty place. Get an airshow on, get in an ice-cream van and a burger stall. Change the name to Hart-Le-Pool. Do something before the place just falls into the sea.

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