Liquid History: a Trip on the Thames

Adam’s splendid birthday cake. The design is full of allusions, only one of which will perhaps be accessible to you.

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.

A view from the river cruiser.

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.

Returning to our riverside mooring. Goodbye, south London.

Click on any image to view it full size.

*from ‘Cargoes’, by John Masefield

 

Snapshot Saturday: a view of densely-packed London from the River Thames

‘Redoubt’ tugs cargo-laden barges down the Thames. The river is as much a busy highway as it ever was.

I had to be in London, because it’s not every day my son gets a chance to sing in the Royal Festival Hall. Admittedly, he was only one of some 400 singers from Lewisham Choral Society and the Hackney Singers, who’d combined to perform Bach’s B minor Mass.  What a privilege to hear so many voices give such a finely tuned and moving performance.

The other treat was that I was seated between my daughter-in-law, and a new friend made entirely thanks to blogging.  She’d discovered my blog after following up a comment I had made on the wonderful ‘Spitalfields Life’.  She commented – often – on mine, and eventually we met. I do like this blogging malarkey.

Views from the deck.

Anyway, I got to the Festival Hall from Greenwich by way of a commuter trip along the Thames.  And on this journey I got a sense of densely packed communities, sometimes in tower blocks; and of the densely packed offices of Canary Wharf and the City.

Something old, something new ….

I saw too the Docklands area, where once tobacco, ivory, spices, coffee, tea, cocoa, wine and wool were unloaded from densely packed ships along the quayside to be processed in wharfside buildings – once busy, crowded industrial sites, and now transformed into desirable apartments and businesses.

Once a busy hive of industry, these wharfside buildings are now dwellings for people who would never have chosen to work there.

I saw the Tower of London, with the city behind showing itself developed in a manner unimaginable to the many unhappy souls who entered, never to return to life as they had known it …. or to life at all.

The Tower of London, with the now almost equally famous Gherkin behind.

This journey is a treat which some lucky Londoners can enjoy every day as part of their regular commute.

My response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: ‘Dense’