I was slow getting out the door this morning as I waited on the rain to lighten — and because I was unaware of the time change that cost me an hour. I should invest in a bright yellow rain coat, colorful cowboy boot galoshes, and an umbrella for three so I can keep dry at any angle when the wind changes direction — or at least some waterproof pants to go with my coat so the rain doesn’t drip onto my absorbent leg coverings. Though the only two things I want to keep dry is my camera because it’s pricy and my feet so they don’t blister.
The rain actually stopped for a bit and the sun was so damn bright as it shined in the sky and reflected off the wet pavement. I hadn’t bothered to bring sunglasses again because they end up taking up valuable pocket space and don’t fit on my head with my hood on. The precursors to modern sunglasses were made out of smoky quartz by the Chinese, out of walrus ivory by the Inuit, and tinted lenses by a French chemist to correct for vision impairments and light sensitivity in the 1770s.
Sam Foster would find a market for his celluloid and cerium creations on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1930s, which has roughly 56% of its days filled with sun while London just 11 degrees north averages 62 days a year. For such limited use, the UK has UV transmission categories so that some sunglasses can be worn inside or on a cloudy day, others while driving to help block reflections from the pavement and ones made to block out the sun on a snowy mountaintop. I love how much science and history is behind something I use daily and take for granted. I would appreciate though if the UK sold rain-x with their sunnies or glecks just as the Middle East should sell defog with their cooling glasses.
I didn’t get to “Soak Up the Sun” (Sheryl Crow) too much before my path brought shade and the weather gifted me more rain. I thought about taking the bus but that would defeat the purpose of walking and I knew there’d still be rain at the other end of the ride. My southeast journey would bring me through Ashburton Park, roughly 1km in diameter, where I will see my first female squirrel and first fartlek (Swedish for speed play) fitness trail to improve strength and endurance by varying between jogging and sprints.
I walk for at least a mile past houses before I turn onto a path leading through Coombe Wood or Addington Hills looking for an observation deck that will offer me a view above the trees of the city in the distance. The trail narrows and widens at seemingly random intersections and links with the London Loop for a while, but many photo opportunities will be missed as the rain decides to join me and the few other people I can hear through the trees on our daily outing. I’m not sure which direction to go so I wander a bit in each before I start the going-west portion of my walk.
This decision will have me entering Coombe Wood Gardens where I would love to picnic and brush up on some botany on the verdant grass amongst the rainbow of surrounding foliage but the falling water has toddlers finding the smallest puddles to make use of all their wet weather attire. There’s a busy cafe and an empty bench; a couple inside a booth and a path that leads to a dead end; short fenced territories and tall tree canopies complete the look of this garden haven.
I took the sidewalk between road and trees and am not sure how I figured out I was not going the way I intended. Perhaps it was the tram crossing and the path ending that turned me around to see the white ball of fire in its field of blue in the sky with no rainbow accompaniment… this time. I take the tram (that can reach a top speed of 50mph) to E. Croydon (the only place in London to have trams) from Lloyd Park. The bathrooms are either locked, require me to scan my Oyster card (which I suppose if you don’t travel doesn’t charge you), or to register on an app (as if I don’t have enough on my phone already).
The E. Croydon Station is the busiest in London outside Zone 1 where a majority of the tourist attractions are located and where different lines intersect to connect you to the rest of the country. Croydon is known for having the first international airport that was open from 1920-1959, giving it the oldest air traffic control tower, and coining the “Mayday” call in the 20s as most flights were to Paris and the word was close to their word m’aider, meaning, help me.
Lunch is had at Oatopia where I stand around the corner from their counter to block the wind while I eat a vegan burger patty of chickpea, pistachio, and mango. I use a ledge to hold my first turmeric latte with cinnamon. The last documented times I had this golden spice, a relative of ginger, was in the early months of 2018 — on cauliflower and in a probiotic drink. I write a lot about food on here, and sometimes it doesn’t seem to stand out, but being able to look back collectively on the moments surrounding what I was eating at that point in my life makes them more memorable.
I’ll enjoy a nice walk along the same streets where composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor lived from 1875-1912 and author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived from 1891-1894. Croydon is where Dubstep was born in the 1990s and is known for having the movies 28 Days Later and The DaVinci Code filmed here, as well as an episode from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. I pass by murals, couples, businesses, and birds on my way to the Croydon Minster, the most prominent Anglican Church of the more than 35 in the borough. I talk with the Father as he unlocks the gate to get his car inside before continuing my lop-sided loop around the Old Town area and seeing a snail, a flip-flop, a striped spider, a teapot, and laundry from balcony to sidewalk.
There’s a commemorative tablet (British for plaque) that lets passersby know that in the year MDCCCXCVI = 1896 the High Street was widened from 29 feet to its current 50. Bridges come with the year of their completion engraved in them but it’s rare to see roads celebrated in their growth as they’re usually remembered for what they were once made of, who or what they once carried, or for being the first of their kind. I appreciate the little celebration, the reminder of history, and the artsy touch the sign adds by being built into the wall.
Another smile gets me another coffee, this time by Radu the Romanian, a professional gardener, who has been living in London for 12 years. I’d have to earn my Americano by following him the quarter mile to Triple Two Coffee where we’d sip and chat a while. I walked with Radu to the tram station and watched him give a homeless woman his chicken dinner before we parted ways. I would take the rail back to Portland Rd to wash laundry (not knowing how long the machine might take) and it turns out I had to hang my clothes and let them take turns on the heater to dry.
I would use this time to talk with Caleb and do some writing, by hand, which feels so cathartic and brings me back to the days before technology became such a force in my life (and I don’t even use it as much as I used to). I grew up using ink, encyclopedias, and paper calendars and understand the eco-friendliness of using less of the Earth’s limited resources but know that the electricity, constant upgrade releases, server systems, and proper recycling come with their own issues that need to be addressed. I was nowhere near this thought process though while I let the pen express some of the electrical impulses firing from my neurons.