Tuesday, 19 May 2015

down by the river

Find myself beside a stream of empty thought,
Like a leaf that's fallen to the ground,
And carried by the flow of water to my dreams
Woken only by your sound.

It's that time of year again - it seems to come round quicker and quicker. Still, this is the last time I'll be juggling a regular job and exam marking. Yes, it's the annual trip to London for the AS Film Studies exam marking conference.

As I am now only working part time and the conference was on Saturday, I took myself off to London on Friday to have a day out. As the hotel was in Hammersmith this year I thought perhaps a wander along the river up to Chiswick and the Fuller's Brewery would be a good idea. Unfortunately I couldn't organise a piss-up in the brewery for myself as they were full. Still, a wander along part of the Thames Walk seemed like a pleasant distraction on a nice sunny day.

And indeed it was. I fairly quickly came across The Dove, quite a famous pub that sits next door to a house William Morris once lived in. I wonder if it's still got the same wallpaper? Anyway, it seemed like a good place to pop into for a pint and a bite to eat. At £4.04 a pint practically next to the actual brewery I was a bit taken aback. It's still only (!) £3.55 in my local and that's the priciest place around here. London prices outside of the West End seem quite high. The West End tends to be a bit cheaper I guess as there's so much competition. Market forces and all that.

I wandered along and took a look around the area as I've never spent much time around there before. I did see the pre-Clash Joe Strummer band the 101'ers* back in the mid-1970s and Dire Straits in 1979. Oh yes, my Best Man took me to see John Martyn there the night before my wedding too. But these were all fleeting visits to a concert hall. We certainly didn't go wandering around the neighbourhood to take in the ambience.

A parakeet, honest!
The riverside walk was a very pleasant experience. Three green parakeets were noisily chasing each other around the trees whilst a couple of cormorants stood on a platform in the centre of the river with their wings akimbo, drying them off. Walking by water is pretty soothing and it gives me time to think. Perhaps that's why I live next to the sea. A warm sun, the sound of bird life and solitude, even whilst in the heart of the city, gave me some time to reflect and think about how life has lead up to this moment. The parakeets were bloody noisy though.

A little later outside a very busy pub, a heron was happily allowing pigeons and gulls to wander around checking him out whilst he lazily thought about whether it was dinner time or not. He was only a few feet away from a lot of people but seemed quite happy. That's probably the closest I've ever been to one in the wild since one flew directly overhead once near the River Ivel when I used to live in Bedfordshire near Jordan's Mill.

A trip to the Fuller's Brewery shop secured a few cans of London Pride at a much more decent price of £1.97 to take back to my Executive suite at the Novotel. They even supplied mini Bose speakers for my entertainment. Things are looking up. After a rest and a few beers I went down to dinner thinking I'd go to the cinema to finish the evening's entertainment off. But after meeting a few old colleagues that was a non-starter as more and more bottles of wine turned up like on some sort of psychic conveyor belt.

Usually I end up wandering around the West End when I go up to London. I have mentioned before that modern Soho is becoming Every Town, Every Place as developers are forcing local established businesses out to build more swanky shops, hotels and restaurants. A depressing state of affairs but everything changes, I guess. I didn't go this weekend as I'd forgotten my Oyster Card and travelling around London otherwise can be pricey (I'm practically a pensioner you know!). Maybe next time.

Saturday came and Saturday went and I reached home without having to get the usual East Anglian weekend "alternative transport"- or getting a bus as they're known.  Usually someone's digging up the railway tracks. Or sweeping leaves off of it. Or nicking the copper wire. On Sunday I wandered up to get a newspaper which is something I rarely do nowadays. However, there was a great article on disappearing Soho in the Observer which I enjoyed reading over a light lunch in my local - yep, definitely £3.55. Reading it made me feel a little cross that I hadn't gone to see it before it does disappear. Well worth a read, anyway. Actually, a live version of Wild West End by Dire Straits just came on as I wrote that. Synchronicity? Ah well, I'll be back up on June for the A2 marking so perhaps it'll last until then.


Zouk Delors said...

I seem to vaguely recall that I once had a drink with Doug Whitehead in the Dove when he lived round that way. As for the loss of Soho's independent traders, I was pleased to see on a recent visit that the Stockpot in Old Compton Street, near the junction with Greek Street - once a favourite cheap dining spot for me - is not only still there, but still has the same manager(Manuel) and some of the same waiting staff. Recommended.

Dave Leeke said...

Ah, now I know the Stockpot. My friend John and I had a great breakfast there a few years ago - I took Mrs Dave there too. Yes, a surprisingly good meal served up with little fuss but good service and value.

It's great to know they've survived thus far - they were probably there as a family run business back in the 70s!

I used to eat in a fabulous Greek restaurant in the mid-70s just around the corner. Can't remember the name but they supplied genuine Greek fodder. I could sit there for ages reading a Penguin Classic with a small carafe of wine and an excellent moussaka. Then I'd go to Nelly Deans and the Marquee . What a sophisticated life I lead!