I think I might have experienced one of the most disagreeable sensations of my life that didn’t actually involve pieces of metal being inserted into me. More on that later.
Last night I made a visit to Chiswick, out in West London. I used to know a chap at school who claimed that Chiswick was the ghetto, but given that his dad owned an aeroplane, it’s possible that his definition of “ghetto” differs somewhat from that of most other people. I’d say Chiswick is one of the least ghetto-ey places in London. It’s notable, among other things, for being the residence of satirical artist William Hogarth and for being where the Chelsea Flower Show got started (although it probably wasn’t called that back then, now I come to think of it). Oh, and On the Buses was filmed there, although I’m sure we’d all like to forget that shameful period in our history.
I was there for a pub crawl organised by a chum of mine whom I shall call The Directrix, because she’s some miles away and can’t get me har har. Much fun was had. I recall explaining the origins of the word “Chiswick,” i.e. that it was founded by investors from Chelsea in 1865 and was originally to be called “Chelsea Is Wicked,” which had to be shortened due to the limitations of road sign technology in those days. I may not have been entirely believed in this claim.
I was introduced to an exciting concoction. I’m not sure how best to classify it. It consists of half a pint of Guinness with a double shot of Tia Maria, and basically tastes like a sort of fizzy chocolate beer. It shouldn’t work but somehow it does. I enjoyed various other substances, but somehow managed to avoid the champagne-and-absinthe, although I did wax lyrical with the Directrix about moving to the 1890s and drinking heinous amounts of laudanum in a loft apartment in Montmartre. I forget whether we came to any sort of conclusion on this.
The evening ended – for me at least – at approximately half past three on Sunday morning. I figured it would be a fairly simple journey back to Colliers Wood. A fifteen minute walk from the Directrix’s place in Chiswick, through Gunnersbury to Brentford. I failed to take into account two factors. The first was the sobering-up process. I don’t know if you’ve ever trodden the borderland between inebriation and the hangover, but it’s not fun. All the fun of not being able to walk straight or coordinate your movements with the additional hilarity that is rising headache and nausea. I tend to view the hangover, overall, as a form of instant karma. But I’d rather it waited until I’d had a bit of a rest before smacking me in the face.
The second factor was the rain. It was, as you may already know, wet last night. Really wet. So wet that my feet have been dyed a semi-permanent black from my shoe polish. So wet that when I took my coat off, I actually got a little dryer.
The two-factor combo resulted in utter misery and the walk being stretched to an hour. Raging thirst and a need for some sort of respite prompted me to enter a petrol station for a drink or possibly combustion-related suicide. Being too wet for the fire to take, I just bought a bottle of Pepsi. The chap behind the counter wittily asked if I’d been out in the rain. I forget whether I laughed or cried, probably both.
Eventually I reached Kew Bridge in Brentford and took refuge at the bus stop, although frankly by that stage the concept of “shelter” had become a little theoretical. Did anyone see Doctor Who today with those water-alien-zombies? Yeah, I didn’t realise there was anything wrong with them, that’s how wet I was. Anyway, there I stood at the bus shelter in the shadow of the tower of the Kew Bridge Pumping Station, now the Kew Bridge Steam Museum.
Surprisingly, and mercifully, the journey back was pretty fast. The route was to be the Number 65 bus from Brentford to Kingston, then the 57 to Colliers Wood. Fortunately, a combination of the lateness of the hour, the crappiness of the weather and a couple of strokes of luck ensured that the rest of the journey took a total of one hour. Given my hatred of night buses, this was a Good Thing.
I had plans to go to Brentford today, but frankly couldn’t face it after all that. So I found business in Tolworth instead. Which is so much better.