I love the River Thames, and I love a river trip. Our friend Adam’s birthday treat to himself and all his friends was just that. A river cruise taking in everything from the London Eye, past wharves and warehouses, parks and pavilions, bridges and Big Ben. I didn’t take my camera, expecting not to be tempted by photography. I was tempted though, so thank goodness for my phone.
I was tempted by what always seduces me about the River Thames: the old, battered, rusted and gritty references to its industrial and commercial past and present. The juxtaposition with new money: glittering ultra modern towers thrusting skywards, surrounded by squadrons of cranes. Expensive new housing where during my childhood there was only industrial waste. Even a helicopter, on duty for …. something.
Dirty-British-coasters-with-salt-caked-smoke-stacks* – or their freshwater cousins anyway, share the waterways with commuter clippers, speedboats and long, slow, rust-coloured barges. Rotting houseboats cling to the shoreline below busy streets and assertively up-to-the minute financial districts.
There are peaceful moments too. Here is Battersea Park, and the Buddhist Peace Pagoda. When I was a child, our flat in Victoria looked directly across at the four imposing towers of Battersea Power station. It’s now decommissioned, and is a housing and residential development, though looking at this image, it’s hard to believe.
A line of cormorants occupies a pontoon below Cheyne Walk, one of Chelsea’s most desirable addresses. And seagulls choose any old rusting buoy to rest on.
We finish near the Houses of Parliament. This view is not quite right. One iconic element is missing, all wrapped up in the manner of a Christo sculpture. What is it? No prizes… not even a river trip.
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*from ‘Cargoes’, by John Masefield