My week off has been quite delightful. To an outsider staring in it would have looked like the height of domesticity: cooking and baking, tidying the home, sowing seedlings, listening to the radio, trips to the greengrocer’s… However, to somebody who spends precious little time at home, it was pure heaven.
Unfortunately Mr M had to work on Wednesday and disappeared to the office whilst I restocked the pantry and the cake tins. As part of my week of indulgent work-free holiday I also treated myself to a massage at the local organic treatment rooms. The massage was much gentler than I am used to from my tiny Thai yoga therapist in Paris but after the initial disappointment I drifted off in the hope that mental relaxation combined with the gentle touch of the masseuse might do something to ease the knots in the shoulder.
Having managed to escape the City early, Mr M met me at the treatment rooms and we stepped out into the dusk and set off for the park. Greenwich Park is a delight at most times but we both prefer it at unusual hours when it has been deserted by tourists and families and becomes the natural terrain for lone dog walkers and local couples.
Weekday mornings are rather splendid, especially in the upper reaches of the park near the rose garden and by the large cypress looking down on the market and over to Canary Wharf and the City beyond that. A cold winter Sunday morning is Mr M’s favourite time for a stroll in the park as the hour and the weather keeps all but the most resilient dog walkers at bay. However, late afternoon on a winter’s day can rival both of these.
Strolling through the park up towards the Ranger’s House at dusk we enjoyed the stillness of the place. The air was foggy with damp moisture. Not drizzle as such but that sense of being in the clouds. During our stroll we passed no more than half a dozen shadowy figures: distant dark outlines of slow-moving shadows taking a turn before the night chill set in. Some figures were accompanied by a smaller shadow bounding along or scurrying as fast as possible to keep up. On the whole, however, the place was quiet and deserted, left to itself for another day while families and lovers huddled inside in brightly lit living rooms, complete with large flat screen TVs.
We turned out of the park into Crooms Hill, passed the Victorian Gothic church and cut through King George Street to reach Royal Hill and then onwards to the Ashburnham Triangle. En route there are numerous chapels as well as saloon bars, some of which have long since been converted into homes, reminding us of the ongoing dichotomy between church and drink during the river’s heyday and the range of settlers in Greenwich.
On our short walk from the park home, we passed The Old Chapel (dating from 1876) and the larger but older former Methodist Hall on King George Street. Both had long since been converted into homes and scenes of domesticity were visible behind the half closed curtains. Then there St Paul’s Parochial Room on Brand Street. With only a tiny side window to its large front door there is little sign of home life other than the mind the dog notice and the Wellington boots left in the porch behind the iron front gate.
Although we passed a converted late Victorian public houses on King George Street, with separate entrances for the pub and the saloon bar, the public houses have generally fared better, with four public houses on Royal Hill and the Morden Arms on the corner of Brand Street and Circus Street.
Before heading to our home for the night, which is itself of an early Victorian Baptist chapel, we stopped by our own local, the Ashburnham Arms. In view of the ratio of pubs to chapels, it seemed only appropriate.