Out to a favourite pub for Sunday lunch, and then a slow walk back home, along the towpath of the Regent’s Canal. I used to walk along the canal regularly when I lived nearby, and in my ten years in London, I’ve seen its dilapilated Victorian brick factory and warehouse buildings be replaced by smart but mostly soulless apartment buildings right on the water. One of these, the Gainsborough Buildings, on the site on what was once a film studio (where Alfred Hitchcock worked, before he left for Hollywood), made an appearance at the beginning of Whole Wide World
. It had not yet been built when I began the novel; now, it is a small, exclusive city-state in the badlands of Hackney - ordinary citizens can’t even walk or drive past them, because the council has obligingly blocked off the road. There are many more blocks like this along the canal, now, and more to come. The neglected and overgrown dereliction of the old buildings gave the feeling of how London might be if it had been abandoned to nature; a long, narrow mixture of wilderness and industrial heritage running through North London and the East End. Now, it’s more like a tawdry imitation of the sets of Blade Runner
, with badly designed yuppie hutches elbowing each other for a stretch of coveted waterside real estate. A taste of things to come, as the marshlands and playing fields along the River Lea disappear under the Olympic developments.
But if you could ignore the serried windows of the apartment blocks, there are still barges puttering along the canal and houseboats moored up alongside the towpath; and the hot sun beat gold highlights from the water, the weeds were all in ragged bloom, and the hot dust of the towpath was as silky as talcum powder underfoot: summertime, in England.