TODAY’S SNOWFALL MEANT shelving a second attempt at collecting sounds along the River Colne. The sorry service run by Chiltern Trains was stuck fast to the rails.
But Greenwich was reachable and the park there was full of people hurtling downhill on toboggans. These ranged from improvised sheets of vinyl flooring and plastic bread-crates to faster-moving shop-bought efforts. Everyone was enjoying themselves.
Londoners have always tried to extract some fun from the coldest weather since the time of the Frost Fairs when the Thames froze above London Bridge, and back to the earliest written descriptions of city life. William Fitz Stephen’s panegyric A Description of London from around 1173 includes this passage:
The pleasures offered by the O2 Dome are flabby by comparison. A long gallery of themed restaurants and amusements curves along the inside before reaching a dead end. Recorded music echoed everywhere against the deep roar of the heating system which was on full blast.
One curious feature in the Dome consists of perspex columns displaying adverts on a cylindrical plasma or LCD screen. The two vertical edges of the image don’t quite meet at the back and there’s a narrow seam filled with an accidental-looking and restless mosaic of coloured squares.
Taking this as a reminder that margins can be more interesting than what they surround, I headed for a run-down stretch of the Thames path along which hardly anyone walks.
The tide was going out and the lower shore was filled with London’s clutter and rubble, dirty against the snow further up. Rust and peeling paint, weeds sprouting from cracks in brickwork and the river holding the city’s din at a distance – bliss.
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