I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

These boots are made for walking

the Thames at Surbiton
Specifically, these boots are made for walking. I've mentioned them before and it turns out people really do read this blog, because since I've been back a bunch of people have asked me about them. I've told them all the same thing: yes, I fell for the marketing spiel about all the extra muscle use you get and the better posture and all that, but I really do believe it. My knees feel better, in a whole I-don't-feel-my-knees-a-lot these days kind of way. I'm convinced my calf muscles are a bit beefier, and at the very least I'm aware of my posture when I stand and am making a genuine effort never to rest all my weight on just one leg. The soles help with that a lot.

Anyway today they got a proper work out. Like a lot of my best plans, the one I'd come up with yesterday/this morning failed dismally. First thing I did when I got up was watch an episode of Seconds From Disaster, for fucks sake. It wasn't even one narrated by Mr Excitable, so fuck knows why I bothered watching it all the way to the end. Inertia's a powerful thing. But I do have some semblance of resolve, and I had a shower in ostensible preparation for departure after it. Of course I sat around afterwards for a bit, cursing at another Seconds From Disaster being on with the decent voiced bloke. I expressed my annoyance at this on IRC:

-me <dsf> fucks sake @ good voice bloke

'cos I just knew I was going to stay in and watch the episode, and then the flat suffered a power cut. Everything down. No TV, no lights, no Internet. So there's my decision made: go the fuck out.

Before losing power I'd done a little bit of research into boating options. I figured an open-top bus tour in town wouldn't last masses of time, and a ride along the Thames would be a pleasant way to start my sightseeing. Unfortunately I gauged from the Turks and TfL river websites that no services operate in October that go anywhere near here. I hoped there was a private service I could get from Richmond, maybe, and while searching I'd come across this write-up of a Thames Path walk some people had done in the opposite direction. Interest piqued and my hand forced, I shoved on some shorts and a dark shirt and headed out.
the Thames

Truth be told I never really thought I'd walk to Richmond. Ham's about my limit really, having done that once before. I went to the newsagent and bought a couple of Diet Cokes (one with cherry, one without; y'know, in America there's such a thing as Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke... I know because the website told me), then headed down the well-trodden path of St James's Road, Maple Road, Cadogan Road and onto the path by Raven's Ait.

Good start this. Great weather, and very few people around until Kingston town centre. A nice walk. A little bit of urban savagery going on under the bridge -- it is half term after all -- but nothing too off-putting. The tunes on my karma were keeping me happy and I figured, what the hell, might as well carry on to Ham.

Come the road up to Ham, just after Boaters, I thought, hrm. Do I really want to go get a bus, or should I carry on walking? Richmond's not that far from Ham, really. The river was looking gorgeous and the weather was still top, plus my feet weren't aching at all. I could always give up somewhere in Petersham or whatever, or even cross the river at Teddington. Yes, Teddington, there's my escape hatch.

Meh. Can't be bothered crossing the Thames at Teddington. I mean, why should I? I was on the right side, the south of the river. Besides, having got this far I thought I should take a look at the lock, 'cos I'd never been there before. And I did, crossed over onto the little island (didn't spot David Essex though) and had a wander around the immaculate little garden there. I thought I could cross back over onto the path at the end, but couldn't -- but the walk to the end wasn't wasted because the amateur/disinterested (delete as appropriate) ornithologist in me was impressed to see a parrot in the tree. Damn thing hid so I couldn't get a snap of it though.

Teddington Lock has some history. Apparently 100 boats made by a guy named Doug Tough were used in some massive famous battle or manoeuvre or summat in World War II. Dunkirk, that was it. Teddington saved us from the bosh! Etc. It's also got a TV studio where a litany of dreadful shows have been born.

Back onto the path and onwards to Richmond. OK, so it was a little further than I'd anticipated... geography was never a strong point and buses do kinda make things seem a bit closer together than walking does, but still. I got a little distressed when I reached the big corner in the river at Petersham, but hey, this was the home straight now. At Richmond I'd find a boat, maybe, and if not just go get a train. Although actually I was more thinking of grabbing something to eat and a pint, and/or do some CD shopping in HMV. I once bought an R&B album called More! Bump & Grind in Richmond HMV, y'know. Yes, that's More! as in More! magazine.

When I reached Richmond I thought, hold on, I don't like Richmond. It's a shit town, clogged up with traffic in streets that are too narrow and it's full of expensive pubs and wankers. So despite being knackered (but not yet knowing how far I'd walked; I'd SMSed Chris but the google maps pedometer thing wasn't working) I just carried straight on through. Thoughts of Brentford or even Hammersmith came to mind. There wasn't going to be a bus tour, but I might as well carry on to somewhere I don't mind and see just how far my legs would take me. Good things these shoes.

Turns out my head gave up before my legs. An opportunity to cross onto the north bank was at Richmond lock, or somewhere just beyond Richmond at least. In fact beyond Twickenham bridge I think. But anyway, I decided against it. South is where it's at, dude. Unfortunately the walk from there to Kew Bridge is mostly not very interesting. A lot of vegetation hides the Thames from you, inland there's a disgusting algae-filled stream or summat, and the path was all muddy and puddleful.

Ah well. Fuck it. In for a penny and all that. The Karma was still going strong and I did see some amazing autumn colours in the trees, plus I was underneath Heathrow's landing flight path. And after a while the vegetation went away and it was all river on the left, Kew Gardens on the right. Yeah, the real Kew Gardens. Not that I wanted to visit it, but it was kinda cool to be next to it I thought. It also meant the next bridge was close. Kew Bridge, innit.

Not that close, mind. I guess Kew Gardens is pretty big. Hmph. But I got there eventually... and there were signs. Being quite adept at navigating the Thames Path by now, what with it just being this big path that goes next to the Thames, the sign wasn't that important in terms of what it pointed to -- but what was handy was the mileage. The implication -- explication? -- that the next bridge was Chiswick Bridge, and more than 2 miles on, was enough to make me call it a day. My feet or legs weren't exactly giving out, but there were definite signs of tiredness. And I was really quite thirsty, and not far from the Magpie and Crown in Brentford, a short walk from the north side of Kew Bridge. Oh, and far from actually going strong, my Karma's battery had died just before the bridge. I guess I really will have to start using my "new" one soon -- around 3 hours life when it's supposed to last 11 sucks.

So, across to the dark side I went and turned left. Oh, bollocks. See, in my mind, Brentford's just, like, right there. Over the bridge and you're there. 10 yards to the Ealing road where the 65 goes and surely no more than 500 yards to all the shops and the pub and stuff. Except no, I'm wrong. It's actually quite a way. The Waterman's Arms, Albany parade, various other bits and bobs were all this side of Brentford whereas in my head they were the other side. Bollocks. Waterman's Park is quite nice but having got in the whole "that's it, the walk is over" mindset I was now getting a bit pissed off.
Kew Gardens

Actually, I guess I wasn't pissed off really. Could have done with some music but the walk didn't really matter, especially given how far I'd already gone. A bit more wasn't exactly going to kill me. And I wasn't lost; in fact I've decided being lost in London is almost impossible, considering to my mind "lost" means not having a clue how to get from where you are to where you want to be, and the public transport is such that that can't really happen.

Anyway, I got a bit of cash out and went into the pub. The Magpie and Crown does decent beers, both English and foreign, and I had a Cornish one called Sharp's Cornish Coaster. Bloody nice it were 'n all. Sat down with it and got online for a bit, although the power cut hat trick came along fairly soon as my phone died too. That's my fault for not having charged it overnight though.

The pub has sold 1713 different guest ales since January 4th 1996. Currently they sell Stiegl lager instead of Stella, and haven't had (m)any complaints about it. Quite right too, because Stiegl is fucking great. So great I had two pints of it.

Brentford has a tattoo parlour called "Ouch". Not sure I'll be going there. Mind you it's quite an amusing name, and marginally less shocking than the BBC using the same name for their disability website.

Brentford also has a carpark called "The Butts". Snigger. Beats Kingston's "The Bittoms" hands down.

The nuts and jelly beans machine in the pub was broken. A guy came in to fix it, armed only with a can of WD40. He's earning his money.

The latest issue of London Drinker has a letter about BITE in it. Someone's angry at negative comments disappearing for some pub or other.

I felt quite isolated without my phone. It was worse than any time during my holiday, in fact. Despite being in England and enjoying understanding both the language and content of the bar conversations going on around me (Hard-Fi's lead singer is a Brentford fan; some rival karaoke bint "doesn't even have Sexyback"; Oldham's Boundary Park is a cold ground in which to watch football; etc) I was really pretty alone. No matter what timezone I was in I knew I could get hold of someone online or by SMS, and spent a fair bit of time being kept company in one way or t'other. But here, in Brentford, I had nowt. Very isolating, as I say, and not at all liberating. I love and need my phone.

The only solution to this isolation was to go home. Plus it wasn't a bad idea anyway, since I was half-pissed, still hadn't eaten, and it was getting a bit cold outside. Bought some food and diet coke, staggered along to the 65 stop (where I got asked if I'd been waiting long about 10 seconds after thinking "I wonder if she'll ask me how long I've been waiting?) and got the bus to Kingston. Fell asleep on it! But since missing my stop was an impossibility I guess that wasn't so bad, and no-one stole anything from me.

Back home and I set about working out just how far I'd walked. Mark had SMSed me on request earlier with the fact that Surbiton to Kew is 7.2 miles by road, which is more direct than the river. gmap pedometer worked for me though, and I used it to work a few things out. Turns out I walked 10.3 miles (click for the route -- need to zoom out 3 times!) and burned 1732 calories. Fucking hell!

I wonder how my legs are going to feel tomorrow.

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