Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Time for a Valium!

Moored alongside our friend Mac waiting for our day of destiny. Hope his Indian can ward off any evil spirits - and rib boats - on our trip
Today we're sitting in Limehouse Marina looking out at the river we're heading onto tomorrow morning. And boy, does it look scary. The river itself doesn't look too bad - just a bit 'sloppy' as Mrs Harry put it...but then the 'rib experience' boats come charging down or the big, fast, catamaran clippers go up and we just gulp at the waves.
Whatever, it will certainly make a change from the weedy, often rubbish infested London canals we've been on. We left Paddington Basin yesterday after our permitted seven days and were through the three Camden locks by mid-morning while most of the usual oddballs and fruit-loops were still sleeping off the night before (sadly, two or three of them on the towpath itself).
Even the iconic Kings Cross gasometer is getting a re- build
Kings Cross was as far as we reached last time we were in London. Then it was a wasteland; now it's in mid-transformation with huge works going on everywhere. The results will doubtless be impressive but will there be anywhere that ordinary people can afford to live? I can't help doubt it.
Pretty quickly the glass and steel of Kings Cross gives way to the graffiti and shabbiness of the old East End. The gentrification of places like Hoxton and Hackney has barely just touched the canal. There's a smart new entrance to Victoria Park (as well as other improvements here all courtesy of London 2012 cash) but the lines of moored boats there are evidence of a very different lifestyle to the flash young Hackney trendies in their designer apartments. And it's all a very far cry from when I used to work here as a young reporter when the canal was empty, the streets were poor and crime was rife. "We don't bother about bank robberies" said my then editor on the Hackney Gazette "we get so many of them".
Lines of boats along the canal at Victoria Park
Limehouse Marina is very gentrified too, with soaring apartments round it, a Gordon Ramsay gastro-pub next door and the local streets full of runners spending their lunch hours from Canary Wharf pounding aggressively round to work up the macho urge to do more killer financial deals in the afternoon.
A stroll around Canary Wharf was like a trip into The Truman Show - huge designer buildings, beautiful designer squares, designer cars, elegant designer shops and all populated by designer people - perfectly formed with expensive clothes and fine tans. No litter, no dog mess, scarcely an ethnic minority face to be seen. Too, too perfect.


  1. Not sure which is worse or the legacy each area will leave behind in years to come....Canary Wharf or Paddington Basin. The Gasometers are being restored, Kings Cross-St. Pancras was rebuilt, but in a century will they even dream of restoring the modern buildings glass and chrome designer buildings?