The lambeth walk doesn’t work

The ongoing extension (and privatisation) of the East London Line which will see it out of use until 2010 has left me at a loss for an alternative between Barkingside and New X / Gate, despite having 3 options.

I tried the rail replacement bus service on the way in yesterday but it was tedious and I didn’t get to walk at all (except the interminable climb to street level from Canada Water Station). I’m only interested in a 1h 20m journey if it has a walk built in.

I could get the DLR but the change from the Central Line at Stratford isn’t short anymore and I don’t like walking along Deptford High St because it’s too loud for headphones and the pavement is narrow.

Which leaves Bank. Exit at Lombard St and walk to London Bridge Station for a train to New X / Gate – that’s the walk and in theory it’s a very nice walk with fine views. But once you get to London Bridge there is a quite astonishingly strong and rapid flow of charcoal grey and pink-faced City workers moving the other way. Some of them are attempting to read a paper, others think it’s acceptable to raise an umbrella, they don’t like people in their way and nor do I.

I walk faster than probably most people and so once I’m on the bridge I usually get to wondering why I have to shuffle behind somebody drifting south with their nose in a paper or mincing along in ridiculous shoes when the people walking the other way are eight abreast, so I try to overtake. Usually if you walk fast along a reasonable path (keeping one side or the other, preferably left), make yourself compact and look a few inches over their heads, people coming from the opposite direction make space for you (if you make eye-contact they don’t and they get cross – why is this?) This works in the morning but last night in the dark it didn’t and there were bumps.

It’s hard coming off the bridge at Tooley St – all the traffic is hurrying the other way. Nobody will stop, I get aggrieved and end up playing chicken. I won today because I didn’t break my step. But tomorrow I might collide with somebody who has a prosthetic leg or is 6 months pregnant. Not good.

Then you get to the station. You never know where the next train is going from and that is a pain in the pants. And you have to put up with people drifting again – can it really be ok to drift around a railway station with no sense of other people’s urgency? I’m almost sure it isn’t. It’s not the pace I object to – you have to accept that people have their reasons for walking slowly – it’s the use of space, the inconsiderate dreaminess, makes me so cross.

I really miss my walk between Bethnal Green and Whitechapel. Bank to London Bridge brings out my worst – worse than I can say. Maybe it’s not even worth it. Maybe I should just get the bus and usher in heart disease.



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