Yesterday the sun shone, so a perambulation was called for. Out the front door; pause on the pavement to toss a coin. Down the river on the Chesterton side. Boats, reflections, beautiful effects of low winter sunlight. So far, so routine (which isn’t a complaint – I never forget how lucky we are to live here).
On the way home Andrew proposed a variation: up the footpath and then home along Fen Road, past all the mobile-home parks and the Roma houses that lie between the railway line and the A14. A small step out of familiar territory into a totally alien world.
There were dogs. Two slim, tentative, curious ones came out and gave us a friendly sniff. Two huge shaggy Alsatians gave me a fright by barking, but those were chained up in a driveway.
There is money on the Fen. There are shiny 4x4s with personalised number-plates, and some of the houses are really grand, with imposing gateways and trim little stable-blocks for the trotting horses (trotting races are very popular with the Roma).
There’s poverty as well, of course: some of the mobile homes aren’t big at all, and some of the plots are very packed-together. But it all looks tidy enough, at least as far as you can see from the road.
There’s industry there, too. Beyond Silverman’s (known to anyone who’s had to economise when furnishing an office) there are lots of little industrial units. Motor repairs; upholstery repairs; landscaping. Practical stuff. Services, mainly, rather than goods.
And the settlement is expanding still. Builders were at work as we walked past.
Most Chesterton people never venture over the railway line except to follow the river. Would I, without Andrew? Probably not.