Sunday, February 26, 2012

Old and New and SQUIRRELS

I’m sitting writing this in a park and two squirrels behind me are racing round and round and round various trees. They make a strange kind of sound, a bit like someone shaking a plastic bottle of water, as their claws dig into the bark. I think they’re just playing rather than one chasing the other in mortal combat (who knows what a squirrel-in-terror expression looks like?). The sun was out a while ago, but it’s been hidden behind a single cloud for about half an hour (the clouds move so slow here) and I’m not certain when it will re-emerge.

I was here for a bit yesterday as well, and discovered some walled gardens that remind me of The Secret Garden, with little paths and ivy and lashings of squirrels. I think I saw the most squirrels I’ve ever seen within an hour. I was a bit amused by all the flax bushes set around the walled gardens, but I guess they’re deemed attractive. I wonder what they planted before they had flax bushes, and if the paths are still the same as when the gardens were first built in the 17th Century. There is also an old mansion to go with the walled gardens, and though it’s not really done up as a museum you can wander through the rooms and stare at the old fireplaces and the plasterwork on the ceilings.

I went directly from the 17th Century house and walled gardens to Canary Wharf, which is quite a contrast. Canary Wharf tube station is, I think, the modern architectural equivalent of a cathedral. Four escalators run down from the entrance into a vast open space the size of a football field and about ten storeys high (these dimensions are vaguely guesstimated). You go through the ticket barriers and down another set of escalators to get to the platforms. Once out of the tube station, you’re faced with a square and a long lake/former dock, and sparkling office buildings on every other side.

(Interlude: I can see SIX squirrels at the same time! They are all checking the ground for something and doing their move-freeze-move-freeze thing. Ooh! Two dogs have appeared. The squirrels have shot up the tree. This is drama, this.)

The streets are one-way, and I’ve never seen them with more than a few cars on them. The footpaths aren’t full either, and everything seems sort of stark and impersonal and quiet. Every so often there’s the rumble of a DLR train going overhead on its tracks, which is also sort of impersonal because you know no one’s driving it. It’s probably very different at lunchtime on weekdays, when all the office workers come down out of their towers (or do they? Canary Wharf is the sort of place where people work fourteen hour days).

Once out of the main streets, it’s quite nice, though. I think I’ve mentioned going to the cinema there across a footbridge, and there are a few restaurants on the side of the docks that would be lovely when it’s a bit warmer.

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