Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Looking for Lila

Went for a lovely walk, I must say, and you'll all be relieved to know I came back, despite falling at various points into a bomb crater and nearly into the Grand Union Canal.

Great navigators of the past devoted years and even their lives to discovering the Great North Passage, the mythical corridor which allowed boats to travel from the West Coast of the Americas to Europe without the treacherous journey around the Southern tip. My quest to find the West Passage was a little less ambitious; looking for a way to reach the canal without a hair-raising 45 minutes of scrambling up motorway embankments and disused airfields.

So, armed with my atlas, some food and water and a torch (only two hours to nightfall), I set off through the back streets, and was crossing the canal within half an hour. I carried on past the canal to find it's amazing what's less than a mile from my house; an old mill (now very attractive flats), a large exclusive golf course (there's even a road tunnel to make sure they don't have to interact with us commoners). Tired of flying golf balls and the lack of a footway, I jumped off the road into Lee's Wood, straight into one of the old WW2 bomb craters I remember falling into as a kid. I spent at least 45 minutes crossing the wood, avoiding trails and rabbits and watching the leaves fall. Finally I came out further down the canal, and walked to Rickmansworth, where it was just getting dark.

As previously written, I've got this thing about that particular stretch of canal. It's really peaceful, and even more beautiful in Autumn than Summer. Life out there just has a different pace, and you feel closer to nature and far away from the intrusive 21st century. Although it was dark, something persuaded me to cross some fields to get to the other bank of the canal where the houseboats are, and I've decided that's where I want to live. There's a farm with a car park and some buildings, and then just a dirt track bounded by fences on one side and a big old field on the other. Through the fences I could see the houseboats and the plots of land that come with them. People build all sorts of structures along there- I imagine I could build a kitchen and bathroom on one side, a little terrace with a hanging seat and maybe a vegetable plot in the middle. I'll call it Lila, after Robert Piersig's boat.

Well, it's something to aim for. It'll take as long to get one of those as it'll take for me to be able to afford one. All in, I walked at least 6 miles, and I'm sleepy.

Maybe it's time to get working on that screenplay again.


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