Sunday afternoon arrives. It steals in the door as a morning of idleness, broken only by a stroll for the papers, slips out. A meeting point keeps drifting. Wembley market, outside a green Hackney Carriage hut, briefly Primrose Hill before settling on Camden Lock.
Buying pastries at Baker & Spice to fuel us on our trek, we begin to make our way along the canal. We walk under Victorian brickwork, under the rumbling steel of railway bridges doubling as troll hiding places, under willows enjoying the chance to weave sunlight. We stop only to pick blackberries and wave at those on the water, but the sun and the rhythm of the place keep our feet no faster than the slowest boat.
Heading north east in the wide green valley cut below the surface of the city, the things you take as London constants disappear. Traffic static becomes a haze memory. The soundscape empties itself of the clatter of cheek by jowl living, allowing new elements to fill the space. The water, still high from the recent deluge, is noisy in its eager lapping of the edge. You can hear vegetation stretching itself in the sun and breeze. There are sudden bursts of quarrelling geese, alien cries from the aviaries as you go through the zoo in Regent’s Park.
Eventually we hit the beginning of crowds. Groups of torpid neo-goths clinging to the shade. Discordant public schoolboys sitting cross-legged at the edge of the towpath, refusing to budge as bewildered Spanish tourists try to escape the gravity well of hip T-shirt sellers.
In the ripe confusion of commerce of Camden’s sprawling markets, I chose navigating by music. A busking accordionist tells me I am close to the Camden Lock footbridge, the sound of St. Clair Pinckney means I am on the far side of the food stalls. Detect the crunch of techno dub and you have your true north, allowing you to make your way to Gilgamesh and all points beyond.
I have no interest in crawling through the shops. My toleration for the embryonic Blade Runner-ville is diminished by sunlight, relative poverty and a lack of storage space. I am much happier sitting on a roof, drinking iced coffee. Meeting achieved, we watch the lock in action. There is childlike delight to be had from seeing the operation of the gates and the rising of a boat. Victorian engineering in action can often cheer the soul.
We follow in the wake of the passing craft. It is heading out along our route home, moving towards moored houseboats, hapless fishermen and greenery. The strong bell of a Primrose Hill clock strikes six. Sunday afternoon leaves us.