Â Overhead the trains rumble from Clapton to Chingford. Thereâ€™s a works entrance to the train line next to the bridge. Often you hear male voices above you, shouting, probably about trains or electricity orÂ football. I can never make it out.Â A sign on the gate says â€śBEWARE OF TRAINS.â€ť Pretty obvious advice for train maintenance workers.
Regular marsh users tend to develop a fixed style of locomotion beneath the 5ft bridge.Â I tilt my head to the left as I go under the first section. Thereâ€™s a gap in the middle between the two train lines. Here I switch theÂ angle and tilt to the right.Â I feel it gives my neck a nice stretch both ways.
This seems a strange thing to do, so let me explain.
A few years ago I developed repetitive strain injury. Too much time hunched at my desk writing. I took up Pilates to repair my posture. If youâ€™ve not tried it before, Pilates is a sweatless form of exercise. You like on your back theÂ lift your legs up and down slowly. You turn your head from side to side. You clench a buttock. ThenÂ unclench it. Not much else happens for 90 minutes, but eventually you end up with a leaner, meaner physique and less pain.
On the marsh Iâ€™ve developed my own form of action pilates. When I walk up a hill, I pull in my stomach and use the climb to stretch my hamstrings. When bending down to pick up one of Hendrixâ€™s shits, I try and roll down through my spine, stretching my back. And when I see a 5ft Bridge, I pull down my shoulders and crank my head to one side.
It helps that I am 5ft 6. Any taller and Iâ€™d have to fold my head at right angles. Taller folk either go for The Stoop (top of the body bent towards the floor, face down) or The Groucho (walking with legs and body bent, face forward).
Once I saw a man who approached the bridge like a limbo dancer: back arched, face turned upwards, inches from the ceiling. When he came upright and saw me staring, there wasÂ no embarrassment on his face. No regrets. It was as if heâ€™d picked the most obvious way to come through.