We trawl grey skies, collect signs from clouds. Push along rain polished pavements hoping that adventure is but a few steps away. Sunday morning and a new paths are calling.
The edge of the
is often a blur. A shifting border that can change with the tide of the city. The
M25, a wall of drone, constant with fatal collision threat, is the ultimate
psychic barrier. However, in some places, the metropolis’s signal breaks down
long before hitting it.
E17 is one of them. Edge land. Caught in the crosshairs of city and county-side. Contested territory in an ongoing border war between Essex and
London that has
We walk three crossroads and are in the demilitarised zone. Traipse on an acorn carpet while
Bridge Road traffic growls beside us. Turn our
heads one way to a horizon of trees and ponds reflecting an undeveloped sky.
Turn it the other for an alternating parade of bus red and strobing ambulance
blue. City’s advance spluttering out, forest counterattack only held at bay by
thin Tarmac lines and carbon monoxide gas attack.
Here at the edge, childhood folklore crashes back into me. Mythology set in early years haunts memory like a weather system. Throws up unexpected storm fronts after years of calm. Of all the myth transmission channels, few rival that of playground or family. Homer a novice compared to mothers telling stories
In the 1970s, every TV drama seemed to use it as corpse dumping ground, every schoolyard storyteller as location for their tall tales. In family folklore, it was both hinterland between Essex and
London and meeting ground for children and
criminality. Step off the path and you risked meeting a killer. Disturb leaf
and loam and you could turn up Turpin’s treasure or the skull of a gangster.
It was where you would live rough when you dreamt of running away from home. Anything could happen there. After all, it is where the Third Doctor began his exile on Earth. A TARDIS materialising seemed no more extraordinary a possibility than some headlines that leaked out of it in that febrile fear decade: ‘Black Magic Murder’, ‘UFO Mystery’ and ‘Slayer Manhunt’. In my young imagination it existed simultaneously as ultimate horror film location and the best adventure area.
Now we sit at The Log Cabin. A tea shack caught between trees and Tarmac. The last gasp, last gulp of the city before the forest. Last chance for a killer to enjoy a bit of splosh before heading off the track to bury the body. We watch a line of Lambretas as Mods tuck into a ‘Breakfast in Box’ or ‘Magic Burger’. Frontline fuel for those patrolling the DMZ.
We drink our cups of Rosie. The edge has claimed us. Now people of the border.
remains our muse, but the forest is our new back garden. London