At the Woodberry Wetlands

The Blog of Dust

The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage
The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage

Last night, my mum treated Tash, Cormac, Randi and me to a delayed Christmas outing to see The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage at the Bridge Theatre. This was exciting on many levels, not least because – discounting our immersive Time Fracture experience at Christmas – this was my first time back at a theatre since Covid began. But going much further back, I can still picture the library in the attic of my primary school where I first laid eyes on Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, and there’s something special about being part of an audience with equally long memories of Lyra and Pan gallivanting around Jordan College. This production itself was also excellent, with Samuel Creasey giving an especially good performance as the bright, confused, hungry and heroic 11 year-old Malcom Polstead who protects the life of baby Lyra in his canoe during a great flood.

It’s much harder to imagine the second book in the trilogy, The Secret Commonwealth, being staged with the same uplifting energy given how much sadder and more melancholy it is. We shall see!

The last few weeks haven’t been that busy, but a few weeks ago we did gain a civic participation brownie point by attending a (virtual) Perry Vale community meeting. Ostensibly the purpose was to discuss the allocation of a pot of funding between a long list of worthy-sounding community projects, but – in a familiar problem – there’s no way I’m actually in a position to have an informed opinion about which projects are worthier than others. So we skipped this part, and joined instead for a presentation from Lewisham’s directly-elected mayor, Damien Egan, on the council’s overall budget and objectives. There are pros and cons to directly-elected mayors, of course, but at a basic level it is satisfying to have ‘a leader’ who can articulate in one voice what the council is doing. (Obligatory snarky comment about London boroughs: just maybe not 32 of them.)

At the other end of the democracy spectrum, Randi and I finally finished watching The West Wing after setting out on this adventure in (*checks blog history*) July 2017. Hey, that’s still faster than watching two Presidential terms unfold in real time! There’s a lot to love about The West Wing, and a lot to roll your eyes about, either because it’s based on completely false premises or (more prosaically) because whole characters and story arcs have a habit of vanishing into thin air. But I miss it now it’s gone. The other night, while Randi was out, I filled the gap by watching a few classic episodes of The Simpsons which I haven’t seen for years and years and was pleasantly surprised at how they can still make me laugh out loud, even something as simple as Homer making a phone call to Japan. (If you want to feel old, read the YouTube comments where the concept of an expensive long-distance telephone call has to be explained. )

We also hosted Kirsty and Roger at ours for a lovely evening of arguments about politics and culture, followed by a great Sunday afternoon at Matt and Laura’s in which I tried to suppress my envy that Cress still gets to have Calpol when she’s sick. Meanwhile our new tradition of Friday night food exploration has included sharing plates in Peckham (from a baseline recommendation of 4-6, we ordered 8), an amazing Georgian restaurant in East Dulwich and – as a reward for persevering through hail the night of Storm Eunice – The Herne Tavern. (Yes, obviously we stayed indoors for the red weather warning bit. Our fence, on the other hand, mounted an invasion attempt into the neighbour’s garden and is now a high-priority item to fix.) Last, but not least, we also tucked into an amazing pastry-crusted fish pie at mum’s at the latest London Supper Brunch Club.

The Spriggan on the Parkland Walk
The Spriggan on the Parkland Walk

And, yes, obviously we’ve kept walking the Capital Ring too. Recent sections have taken us via muddy Fryent Country Park (is it ever not muddy?) to Barn Hill – where my dad used to take us as kids all the time – and the Welsh Harp (much lovelier than Mr Birch’s secondary school assemblies about murder made it out to be) and later Highgate Wood (delightful, although Tash has since reminded me that this is where the worst dogs of our childhood appeared) and the wonderful Parkland Walk south to Finsbury Park. In case you can’t tell, I’m enjoying all of these North London bits, but the last one was especially exciting for being an old railway route, with the tracks now lifted, but which would be part of the Tube’s Northern line today had the Second World War not intervened.

The archer at East Finchley station
The archer at East Finchley station
Queen's Wood in Highgate
Queen’s Wood in Highgate
Abandoned Crouch End station platforms on the Parkland Walk
Abandoned Crouch End station platforms on the Parkland Walk
At the Woodberry Wetlands

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