19 May 2006

forgotten corners

I didn't go for my run this morning.

Instead I went to an industrial estate in North London, near Park Royal. That part of London seems to be one sprawling industrial estate. They may as well cover the whole thing with the world's largest sheet of corrugated iron. I do not begrudge them this. Most of these estates are for storage, manufacturing or some combination of the two. They don't need to be pretty to serve their purpose and the four-walls-and-a-roof (preferably corrugated iron) has worked thus far and keeps down overheads. The odd broken window doesn't concern management because the iron bars keep people out and the kettle is the only central heating. By and large the open spaces are covered with tarmac and that is covered with all manner of lorry, van, JCB and car. Litter is endemic, though none of it seems dirty; it's more untidy. Fast food vans provide lunch - and tea when the central heating's broken.

It seems quite a desolate place, utilitarian and stark. Beauty can be found though, almost accidentally, in the fossils of past industry. Running through these estates is the Regent's Canal, whose aesthetic charms mask the purpose of its origins. Before the railways, it was part of a network of canals that ran throughout Britain, feeding commerce and industry. The pleasure cruising you see these days was unheard of: it was utilitarian, designed for a single purpose and used for that.

Life is drawn to river banks, even man-made ones. And in the midst of industry and utility this lush patch of green sits sometimes unnoticed. It's, understandably, overlooked for the more pristine surroundings other sections of the canal enjoy. A few miles to the east is Little Venice. While there the canal is the focal point of the neighbourhood, the reason for its name, through much of Park Royal it is forgotten and probably resented it for drawing a line through estates.

For me it was a welcome relief. When your mission for the day is to take pictures of storage containers any distraction can turn into a few whimsical, nonsensical and nostalgic paragraphs.

Also worthy of note was the food van we got lunch - not deep fried lard, but portuguese spiced pork sandwiches. How weird and wonderful is that? Brilliant.

Lovely view, shame about the furniture. What's missing is John Cleese saying "And now for something completely different."

Is the fencing there to keep nature out or the industry in?

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