Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Capital Ring: Hendon to Finsbury Park

Now onto our fourth day of circling London via the Capital Ring, picking up the journey near the beginning of the M1 at Hendon Central. It looked at first as though we'd have a lot of boring street navigation, but after reaching the River Brent path, and then Highgate Wood, Queen's Wood, and utlimately the long Parkland Walk, it proved to be one of the more pleasant days on this broken journey.
The drinking fountain shown below in Highgate Wood has an quote taken from the final lines of Coleridge's Inscription for a Fountain on a Heath:
Drink, Pilgrim, here ; Here rest ! and if thy heart
Be innocent, here too shalt thou refresh
Thy spirit, listening to some gentle sound,
Or passing gale or hum of murmuring bees !

The Parkland Walk is 3 1/2 miles of linear park retracing what was intended to be a new railway line, but the embankment and some stretches of almost-completed platform provide a really picturesque elevated track through the north of London, highly decorated with bright graffiti.

An early part of the walk followed the River Brent beside the North Circular ring road, said to be Britain's noisiest road. At Finsbury Park, where there was a view through to Norman Foster's cucumber, we broke the journey at Manor House station, since it was on the Piccadilly Line taking us directly back to our start at South Ealing.

We sat in an almost empty end carriage for most of the journey. Bondi flaked out quickly on the floor before me. An older man with a mid-to-east European accent got on and sat down two seats from us, with much of the remaining carriage still empty. After a moment he shuffled down a seat, saying "You will keep him away from me(?)".

"He will not be a problem, and he's sleeping anyway"

"He has a smell".

"Yes, well we've both walked through a bit of mud in the park today. Not all of London is concrete footpath." (And that's all the smell was, and the man said no more.)

While walking through Highgate Wood I enjoyed a new recording of the Brahms Piano Quartets by Marc-André Hamelin and the Leopold String Trio, with the zesty Hungarian tunes in the G minor seeming to match the activity of myself chasing Bondi chasing squirrels through the trees. I first heard this piece as part of the soundtrack to Patrice Leconte's Monsieur Hire (1989), finally available on DVD after an inexcusably long wait. Michael Nyman wrote the film score, and adapted some of the Brahms (such as in the piece Skating found on his Best of 2CD collection). I love his witty adaptations of Purcell (and contemporaries) used in The Draughtsman's Contract, especially An Eye for Optical Theory with its pumping bass line, which almost itches for a dance remix.

This evening I had a scuba review session in advance of my trip to Egypt at the end of the month. I assembled a dive kit for the first time in 16 years, and joined 6 others in a 3m deep pool to go over procedures for descent, ascent, buddy checks, and elementary buoyancy control. It was a little disconcerting for the first 5 minutes, but when I was no longer thinking so much about my breathing , old habits took over.

At a pub dinner later, some of the other divers were talking about ghost stations of the London Underground: stations never completed or abandoned. Mental bookmark to check these at a later time.

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