Sunday, 3 November 2013

The pace has slowed

Not quite this slow perhaps but in the two weeks since my last post we've moved little more than two miles. It's been strange - even by canal standards - slowing down to four miles a month!
We haven't been on the boat the whole time; we used the security and convenience of being in Paddington Basin to disappear off visiting children and grand children.
I have to admit I quite like the Basin. I know a lot of boaters find it characterless and it certainly is wind-blown but I enjoy the modern architecture and watching the hustle and bustle of workers coming and going. And, of course, it's a comfortable walk or a short bus ride to Oxford Street, Hyde Park and all the delights of central London.
It can be entertaining, too. We watched the famous roll-up bridge being demonstrated and witnessed the huge Marks & Spencer offices being evacuated after a fire alarm.
But all good things come to an end and after our alloted week we had to cast off and cruise back out west. As far as Kensal Green, two miles away. The 14 day moorings here have always been popular: there's a canalside Sainsburys and being at the junction of Ladbroke Road and Harrow Road, west London is still a short bus or tube trip away.
When we came into London the moorings were overflowing with boats - many of them the classic 'hippy hutches' with their flapping tarpaulin covers and piles of scrap, on the boat and on the surrounding grass. But some seem to have been shoo-ed away by the CaRT patrols or shuffled off to winter moorings so there's more space.
We've passed the vast Victorian Kensal Green cemetery a few times by boat but now with time to kill (excuse the pun) we decided to visit. It's an amazing place, in a state of Gothic semi-dereliction, though still in use. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is buried here in a family plot, so too Charles Babbage, Blondin, Wilkie Collins and many more.
By way of contrast, yesterday we were among the crowds of the living in Portobello Road Market, heaving with visitors - mostly foreign - to the point at which progress slowed to a shuffle.

Today we found a quiet little park off Ladbroke Grove then wandered back towards the canal past the monstrous Trellick Tower, the 'seventies brutalism' tower block designed by Erno Goldfinger (yes, Ian Fleming did pinch his name for the Bond villain). From a seventies crime-ridden slum it has now been revamped and revitalised as well as getting a Grade 2* listing.

Nearby is a delightful canalside community garden project which has turned a scrap of land into a cheerful and imaginative place to spend some time. The contrast to the concrete monster that overshadows it could not be more great.