Most of us, I am sure, have had the slightly disorienting experience of losing our way within a territory with which we are all too familiar: those moments when the geography we have become accustomed to grows strange and crooked, as if, unexpectedly, we have - if only for a brief moment - crossed over a threshold to behold the reflection of our world in an entirely alien one.
There are roads and avenues in Horsingdon which, on certain mist-shrouded evenings, appear to extend into infinity. Fairway Avenue off Southcote Lane is such a place. A thoroughfare between Southcote Station (one of the public transport links between Horsingdon and central London) and Northwich Park University campus, it is a favourite shortcut for students after a night out in the Capital. The old polytechnic transmitter pylon overlooks and aligns directly with Fairway Avenue at the Northwich Park end.
A friend of mine who works at Northwich Police Station told me of the time, a few years back, when a vagrant found wandering aimlessly and mindlessly along the avenue turned out to be a student who had been reported missing from Northwich Park campus in 1978.
Other tales have been told regarding pedestrians using this route who, despite having travelled it many times before, nonetheless failed to reach their destination safely or with their wits about them. Then there are the other tales - the ones that the local police don't like to recount - of those travellers who failed to reach their destination at all.