The Amazon morning days – have a free day and promised a friend I would visit their pop-up food truck to taste a prego, or two. Turns out it was two, (no I may look it post prego, but not pregnant) so disturbingly delicious they were. Growlers is the food baby of two Cordon Bleu chefs with youth and drive in their hearts – ambitious and beautiful at the same time. This could be my new ‘follow that truck’ situation.
Found them today at Paddington Central, behind the main station and on the canal. The space has been restored into an inspirational combination of office blocks, old world barges and funky art. Walk the walk here all the way to Camden for a great day out. Having done that, I decided to path less known, the other way beside the water.
Tourist London ebbs into the more gritty side of the city on this route. Park benches become fewer, quaint cafés tumble into seven elevens and residential ‘back views’ along the canal. Though most are well cared for, the private voyeur style looking through windows reminds me of Athol Fugards play ‘People are living there.’ Swans and even better, cygnets for decoration on the water.
Art takes the form of graffiti and to the left, the high rise council buildings shadow the clouds. I can see the cladding, the cladding so deadly on most of them. Still I walk on, it gets quieter here but am I nervous, no, I am in London in the afternoon. Refugees sit silently on benches but do not disturb. This is what makes London so unique – like most cities, the tourist areas, and the living areas, cultural melting pots within the boundaries.
But I am wandering too far, becoming rather a little bleak for me with the now failing Amazon attitude. Decide to get a bus back to the brightness, and wait, and wait. And observe. Cross rail signs on the other side. A couple trying to create a patch of garden through the small gate I spy, the noise of the trains and traffic will never for a quiet space allow. An old man is struggling to carry his grocery bags, stopping to pause, to change hands and walking stick with orange packets. I wonder if he ever still looks up? A whirr of skateboarders fly past. When the bus finally arrives, I board to find it stops at the next stop – I am going the wrong way, end of the line. How is it that I made the mistake for goodness sake, I have lived here long enough by now! Cross the road and wait again. Me and a young woman with a white painted face. Like a face mask, totally white bar the black lined eyebrows, false eyelashes and box black hair. Her suitcase, black, reaches her boobs. Goth in the daylight, her dress is torn, her life is a difficult one I think – she is young, she is a hundred years in sadness.
The ride back to Piccadilly flows past reams of houses, some blue, some pink, some forgotten. And then, the blackened death trap of Grenfell Tower. I cannot take it in, so large she looms over us. Stark, World Tower of pain, looming, silent as life crawls below her. And I wonder, should she stay in testimony to human frailty, or be razed in memory to lives lost on that awful night? Don’t know – but I was no longer wanting to explore this city I love today. The sadness of Grenfell continues to overwhelm. I wanted to go home. Kept thinking about this gritty, pretty city – the ages of life, death, re-birth, famine, plague, money, success, happiness and how the layers of history lie below me as the wheels of the bus …
Times one needs to walk further than the familiar. Inner city views for even here, in the dishevelled state, in areas we chose to ignore, there is a kindness as we saw with Grenfell, innovation, art and the most amazing people living there.