Saturday, we went to the mysterious East, aka Walthamstow. We visited several nice pubs, a brewery
on an industrial estate (Dom commented that when he'd visited the similar London Fields brewery, some black people passing said: "White people'll drink anywhere! They look so happy!"), through the Village with its cute cottage and half-timbered houses, and finally The Chequers, which I last drank in on 6th August 1995, the day when the pubs were allowed to open all day on Sunday
. Then it was an old geezer boozer, now it's a hipster hangout. Walthamstow is basically Dalston and Stoke Newington but with half the people. We also visited this wonderland
Sunday, we ventured to the garden of England, cycling from Sandgate to take the dinky Dymchurch, Hythe and Romney railway
to Romney Sands, passing pheasants, corn, wheat, pigs, sheep and rabbits racing the train on the misty Kentish marshes. It's great that railway enthusiasts keep this line alive, but I couldn't help feeling that it shouldn't be left to the public to provide public transport.
We took the winding shingle path of buddleia
and blackberry brambles onto the nature reserve. We were there to have a traditional summer's day out to look at pre-war spy equipment, the sound mirrors of the marshes
. I was very surprised to find out that these monoliths were built between 1928 and 1930 - somebody was already predicting a Super War. People caressed these modern neolithic structures, stood at the 200 foot wall
that did indeed reflect sound; Dave's voice bounced off of the top of it, making me suspicious that there was a hidden mic within the wall. The largest one looked like a spaceship
crashed onto the marsh. If civilisation ended, future generations would think that these were our sacred objects of worship.
We walked back and stood in the rain waiting for the mini-train to take us back again. This time, it's a steam engine.
Steam trains are exactly like you think they will be, with their ch-ch-chuff, poot poot, the romance (and sulphur stink) of the smoke, the sooty-faced man with the red kerchief and peaked cap stoking the engine, another man with a fancy lens and rainware taking photos. I've come to the conclusion that you're not truly British unless you carry a kagool with you at all times.
We biked it back to Folkestone, one of the few south coast promenades you can cycle along (at Frinton, they took a very dim view). I'm not so much King of the Mountains as Queen of the Flat Surface. The outskirts of Folkestone house lovely clapboard, Victorian, modernist, art-deco buildings, and the town itself has a nice olde section of tea-rooms and restaurants, none of which were open. We took the water-lift to the top of the town; disappointingly, it's not called Folkestone's Funnest Funicular, but the Leas Lift.
Back on the main train, HS1 made me feel like I live in Germany (apart from the time it broke down and I sat outside Ashford for an hour - then it was like Italy). It seems to make everyone happy, the staff member at Stratford International was the cheeriest, most helpful guy I've ever encountered at a train station. He even called me 'madam' (and Dave 'buddy').