Sorry I disappeared for a while there. I didn’t mean to. I just didn’t have any internet in my new flat until yesterday, which meant that I spent the entire summer practically ignorant of the goings on in the world around me, which was actually rather restful, when I come to think about it. I’d love to say that I got loads of reading done, but I didn’t; I stayed in London for my holidays this year, and was so busy exploring and enjoying the city that I barely had the opportunity to sit down with a book.
I’ve moved to one of the only remaining unfashionable areas in this rapidly gentrifying part of the city; you won’t find any artisan coffee shops, flower markets, pop up vintage shops, art galleries or zinc-ceilinged New York style bars round here. The local market is filled with stuff that clearly came off the back of a truck, the only coffee you can buy is from Greggs (Brits will know what that means!) and the most exciting shopping experience can be found in the local charity shop. But I love it here because of all this; it’s real London, with real Londoners, living real lives. It might not offer many instagram-friendly photo opportunities, but actually, when you look closely, what appears to be a bit of a dump is actually an amazing receptacle of London’s history, largely unseen and unvisited because it’s completely off the beaten path.
My new neighbourhood is intrinsically linked to the water, and walking along the canal path, peering into the windows of the brightly painted houseboats and picking blackberries off the bushes that grow in a tangle along the water’s edge, are some of my favourite ways to pass an idle afternoon. The cobbled streets and weathered brickwork on the old wharf buildings by the river, along with the few remaining pubs and houses from the 17th and 18th century that crouch like elderly gentlemen between the shiny new blocks of flats, sweep me right back to Victorian London, and make me feel like I’m in a Dickens novel. I love wandering through the leaf strewn grounds of the majestic Georgian Hawksmoor churches, whose spires can be seen from miles away, and whose lofty architecture speaks of a time when this now rather down at heel spot was once home to London’s elite. And I love the searing brutalism of the midcentury high rise blocks of flats that pierce the skyline and whose sides are often decorated with some interesting examples of street art. So, you might not come here for a culinary, cultural or sartorial day out, but you’d be hard pressed to leave without having seen something beautiful or surprising, reminding you of just how diverse and ever-evolving London is.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of my new patch; I’ll be back soon with a book review, and Simon and I will definitely be recording a new podcast this week, so keep your eyes peeled for that!