How glorious, in fact!
I'd eaten all the crusty offcuts during this whole time and they were all very crusty and offcutty and not great. But once we'd left and got on a train to Vauxhall we could actually eat the creation and, yum, very nice.
Searching for more trivia about the borough en route, we discovered that Walthamstow originally meant "the place of welcome". That seems hopeful, right? Changing onto the Victoria line we got a crowded noisy boring tube train lightened up only by watching the man to our right swigging water out of an impractically large vessel. But about, I dunno, 80 minutes or so after leaving the flat we're at Blackhorse Lane.
Blimey, they are welcoming around here it seems. We cross the road immediately upon leaving the station due to misplaced confidence on my part about which direction we're meant to be going. Passing us, a man mutters and mumbles sit down sit down sit down sit down a lot. Doubling back upon discovering our mistake, we turn to see the mumbler sitting down and looking happy. Well, good.
The tree part of the picnic was because of the word "forest" in the borough's name; the duck is homage to the first thing we intend to visit, the Walthamstow Wetlands. Turns out that to get there it's a 10 or so minute walk along a large main road, past tons of police randomly stopping and searching cars in both directions, more so (but not exclusively) heading towards Haringey. Oh, yeah, the border is around here too.
We have to push tree branches out of the way to get a proper look at it and I'm thoroughly unimpressed, while Helen takes the opposite view and thinks it's better than most, largely due to it being embossed. In fact, she thinks it's glorious.
Good job too, because finally she's smiling. The walk was particularly rubbish, and the wetlands as a destination hardly compelling. But we're here now. This is Europe's largest urban nature park or something, and only opened at the tail end of last year. Basically it's a bunch of reservoirs around which they've built nice cycling and walking and running trails, and they're taking special care about the wildlife. Also freight trains go right through it, next to the car park.
A variety of signs in alternate orientation greets us and leads us down toward the visitor centre. Apparently everything might be closed.
Inside the visitor centre is a cafe, shop, turbine hall (off limits) and viewing platform.
Inside, hanging from the ceiling are a shitload of jars with things in. There were probably plaques explaining what's going on but we really weren't very interested.
Waiting plus riding time likely longer than had we walked, we're back at the Overground station at the worst possible time - the every 15 minutes service leaves as we descend the steps to the platform. Bugger. Still, gives us plenty of time to find a place in which Helen will be able to pose for the train's eventually glorious arrival on platform 2. Yes, 2. Who printed the sign wrong?
First, chickens. I like chickens but this is a small coop. Probably too small even for the children who aren't allowed in it.
Some weight watching donkeys are up next. Poor things.
I struggled to order, not really knowing what to do nor understanding that we were being told there was virtually no choice: either we had small pie (one or two), or we had fuck all. OK, I'll have two pies and Helen will have one. Furthermore I'll have liquor with mine – which is a kind of non-gravy made of parsley sauce.
Right. Let's skedaddle and go get another bus, from the nearby St James Street bus garage. It's a shady car park behind the rear entrances to a bunch of the market shops and next to some dilapidated arches by the train line. It is an inauspicious place to wait for a bus.
But, being the starting stop for the 212, we have our pick of seats and can therefore claim the front right on the top deck. Glorious!
Up beyond the garage we peel away from central Walthamstow and towards "the village", where we get off up Church Hill to go look for a post box. But first there's an owl mosaic. Helen always appreciates bonus owls.
The other side of St Mary's church yard there's an ancient house. Right next to it is a sign pointing at it, saying "ancient house". Well OK then.
This is a bonus as well. We're here for a post box, damn it, and here it is. Unexpectedly it's not actually in use any more, but it's still historical and cultural and stuff. It's a hexagonal "penfold" pillar box and looks like this.
Somebody is very impressed. They do, in fact, think it's glorious, and this is the most carefree demonstration of that emotion yet – what with a bunch of other people around and seeing us pose for and take this pic. Fuck 'em!
At the back there's a little bar, and it even serves booze, but to be honest drinking in here might be a bit too much overkill on the senses. Also it's warm outside and there are places to sit and drink there because the three other things on our list for the day are also in this industrial estate. It's basically the best industrial estate ever. Let's have some gin shall we?
That would be a gin palace in a converted munitions factory, as you do. We go in and are moderately flabbergasted by the selection of gins available. The menu has 6 pages of them.
All those bottles above the bar are gin. All of them. Helen has a Mothers Royale – prosecco with a rhubarb liqueur – and I have an Old Tom, a gin made on the premises and cut with tonic and coriander and some other stuff. It's lovely and hella strong. Outside we can't find a seat so we're back indoors, but wanting a drink elsewhere we abandon the temptation to have more here (we have bought one of their bottles to take home, after all). The second we emerge a party leaves a table across the way which I immediately grab. Score!
So now we're sat outside The Real Al Tap. It's a place we'd not heard of before turning up; it's selling loads of kinds of cider and craft beer. We like those things! Helen has a can of tamarind sour (which we think she'd had before, in episode 1 down in Lewisham) and I have some Partizan porter. This is pretty fucking glorious.
Far from the (very) cosmopolitan nature of the rest of Walthamstow, here is the perfectly predictable "mix" or 30-40-something middle class mostly white hipster motherfuckers drinking expensive but fantastic booze. There's a table of "Bollocks to Brexit" march-attendees on the table just over there, who apparently have been talking smack about "northerners and their shit lager" in my absence.
Keeping the same seats, I pop into Pillars Brewery next door and buy a pint and half of chocolate orange black lager. Because, y'know, fucking hipsters.
Helen's already claiming to feel a bit pissed by now, but also wants to leave because the bench we're at is quite uncomfortable. Much to my surprise and delight she agrees that standing up might be better and indeed acceptable should we get another drink, because I'm insistent that we get another drink because also in this industrial estate is the Wild Card brewery.
Yes. Three breweries or otherwise purveyors of great beer, a gin palace, and a booze-vending neon cavern. Like I said, this is the best goddamn industrial estate in the world.
Inside Wild Card we queue up and then, while being served, I grab another spare bench. This is working out very well, though the "Black Forest Gateau" beer I want isn't available so I have to settle for a chilli porter so hot it makes me cry and almost gives me hiccups.