On the way to Ferry Bridge, you’ll find a car park outside the industrial estate. The cars are blue, red, black, white, silver, gun gold. Two teenagers are in the front seat of a Renault 340, kissing. They break off. The girl bites his ear just below the earring. The boy laughs, brushing steam off the windscreen.
Then the reservoirs come, deep, grey and long.
It is almost summer now in Tottenham, early afternoon. Through the trees, if you tip on your toes, you see the towers of central London. The tip of the Gherkin, rearing up through gentle light. At eye level, railway lines arching themselves towards Harringay. An old couple in their Ford passing the billboards, stuttering towards the A10.
At the start of Ferry Lane, you pass the Walthamstow Fishery. The gate is open; a man is there. Zipped-up warm, he hooks your eye and smiles. In the waters are rainbow trout, barbel and chub, eel, bream and tench, carp and pike that bulk up to forty pounds. When the nights draw in, wildfowl start to settle here. Then, when they’re drawing out, as they are, little egrets can breed again. If they do, the bare skin below their eyes will deepen to red or blue. As it did, in this place, for the first time last summer.
A Volvo purrs by, then another. The road turns.
The Ferry Boat Inn sits snugly on the north of Ferry Lane. It is two hundred years old, Van Winkle-sleepy, made of stone. A chalkboard sits outside, half-dappled with shadows. “Management and team welcome you to the Ferry Boat,” it tells you, in white letters, “and hope you enjoy your visit and see you again.” To the back of it, painted seats and tables overlook the water; a Saab and a Mondeo twinkle nearby.
Inside, a man puts his car keys down on the table, then puts his hand on a woman’s bare knee. She laughs, bats him away, then returns, puts it back.
A few steps further.
Here, away from the traffic that is starting to come now – cars getting closer together, the fumes getting heavier, the shopping centre and Hale Village jagged on the horizon – you find the small path to the Paddock winding shyly to the north. Horses used to graze here in the 1990s, when nothing else was left. But then the people came, with spades and hard-working hands.
Now, the willow and wild geraniums are nearly ten years old. Birds come here not to rest, but to nest. A ginger tabby cat emerges through the undergrowth, her ears sparkled with dirt. She looks at you, waves her tail, then disappears through the leaves.
The traffic, the gunshots, the newspaper headlines, seem so far away here.
Then the river comes.
Here, it is forty miles from its source, ten miles from its mouth. Ducks float by in their flocks, sunstruck. Narrowboats sit at rest, alone, flowers bathing on their roofs. Then they wait for the water to fall, and go under the bridge, journeying lazily, and long, to the Thames.
Here, on last summer’s bridge, everything seems possible. Here, London rises from the dead.