The industrial landscape of London’s canals might not make an obvious choice for a holiday, but it offers a unique view of the city. Just watch out for the maggot-wielding youths, writes Carole Cadwalladr
Oh, there’s nothing like messing around on the water. Forget ducks and lily pads and weeping willows and scenic English villages, though. Think blighted industrial landscapes, waste processing plants, old nags grazing by the side of the canal and men with pit bulls loitering, suspiciously. Just south of Enfield, in a prettily painted narrowboat called Jessie, moving along at a stately four miles per hour, we glide gently into the kind of landscape that looks like you might find Sigourney Weaver armed with a flame thrower: there are pylons on one side, the M25 just ahead, darkened underpasses providing the ideal cover in which to take crack cocaine, and beyond, delights still to come, Edmonton and Tottenham.
What could be more perfect? And who better to enjoy sharing a confined space with for four days, in a 55 foot vessel neither of us has a clue how to steer, than Pete, the feckless Australian. He’s my old friend, but I should also perhaps mention, given the holiday’s potential for total disaster, loss of life, limbs etc, not to mention holed hulls, broken rudders and spectacularly poorly executed three-point turns, he also happens to be my ex-boyfriend. From a very long time ago, it’s true, but when it comes to apportioning blame and calling each other rude names, it seems that, like riding a bicycle, you never quite lose the knack.