Sunday, 20 July 2008

Tropical Paradise, just minutes from Tottenham

EVERY day a bus passes me with "Enfield Island Village" stated as its destination. Every day this excites me. Although I live on the fringes of London, a 15 minute walk from the greenbelt with country parks and tree-shrouded mansions all around me, one finds it difficult to imagine Daniel Defoe coming up with the idea of Robinson Crusoe in the urban borough of Enfield. But could it be? Could there be an island, just minutes from Tottenham, where the people live in tree houses, swing from tree to tree and trade in coconuts?

Rachel and I went this weekend to investigate.

We drove on, past Oakwood tube station, through Enfield town centre, the evening sun bathing the town green and market in glorious light. Further we went into unchartered territory, treading where many have probably gone before. Past Cineworld. Past Pizza Hut.

Then suddenly there was a sign. Not a light from the heavens or a symbolic gesture, just the words: two miles to the island village. The village of dreams, of hula and happiness. We were ready to ditch the car on the ocean shore, hop in a boat and row.

Now, as you well know, I've been to the islands of the south pacific. I remember sun, reefs, thatched bure huts and an easy way of life. I don't, as far as I recall, remember seeing a Matalan. But this is what we passed just before the bridge onto the island, which turned out to be a flagship housing development between the River Lee Navigation Channel and the Cattlegate Flood Relief Channel. The site used to house a government-owned musket and sword factory, which was built too late for the Napoleonic War but was more than handy in the Crimean War of 1854/5, the Boer War and the two World Wars. The factories closed in 1987.

Nowadays, it is full of modern flats. There are canals and canal boats, but fishing is prohibited. There are no palm trees, but there are lots of speed bumps.

Needless to say, we were a little bit disappointed. So we got back in the car, found a lovely Italian restaurant in Palmers Green and then bought pudding in a local patisserie. This was far more entertaining than the Island Village because, by complete coincidence, both puddings had rude names. Oh how we giggled like school children.

No comments: