diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 22, 2020

I can confirm that South London is still there.

Yesterday I went down to the Isle of Dogs to stare at it across the watery abyss, and everything seemed to be in place.



The Millennium Dome is still there. You can see it across the Thames from East India Dock, its twelve spikes still defiantly piercing the sky. It's not entirely impossible the roof could have been removed since I was last there, which was in March, but all the visible evidence confirms its continued existence. The building's not open though, it's had to shut throughout lockdown 2 because every single thing inside is non-essential. Restaurants and big arenas were always going to close, but if you ever needed evidence that the O2's new shopping mall was entirely superfluous, here it is. Nobody's clomping over the top either, which will have saved a lot of people £32. I assume the new creative quarter outside is still under construction but that alas was out of sight. If only it were possible to reach the Dome from North London I'd hop over and check, but a Jubilee line jaunt simply isn't permitted at present.



North Greenwich is still there. You can see it across the Thames from Cubitt Town, still an impractical mix of old and new. It's not entirely impossible the peninsula could have been cut off since I was last there, which was in March, but my zoom lens dictates otherwise. The highrise offices on the far bank are likely empty, what with most employees working from home, plus it was Saturday yesterday anyway. But the nearside land remains defiantly industrial, with a mucky expanse of aggregates where any practical urban planner would have zoned housing. Not even the driving range can function at present, so would-be athletes are forced to confine their activities to jogging or cycling along the riverbank. I assume the entire Thames Path is open at present but I can't be certain. If only it were possible to reach North Greenwich from North London I'd hop over and check, but a Dangleway ride simply isn't worth the money.



Shooters Hill is still there. You can see it across the Thames from Virginia Quay, its slopes swathed in semi-detached houses and autumnal trees. It's not entirely impossible all these properties could have been evacuated since I was last there, which was in March, but common sense suggests this would have been impractical. Somewhere here are Charlton's retail sheds, no doubt thronging with purchasers of groceries rather than large ticket luxury items. Beyond are the wilds of Woolwich, not to mention the emergency wards of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, however crowded they may now be. I'm reminded that the population of South London are getting on with their lockdown lives, entirely cut off from those of us doing the same in the North. If only it were possible to reach the area from home I'd hop over and check, but a trip on the 108 bus is very much to be avoided at present.



Maritime Greenwich is still there. You can see it across the Thames from Island Gardens, the Cutty Sark still marooned in the middle of the piazza. It's not entirely impossible it could have been bulldozed since I was last there, which was in March, but this appears not to be the case. There won't be much open, though, because heritage tea clippers aren't on the legally permissible list and no international tourists have flown in to swarm its decks anyway. Up on the hill the Royal Greenwich Observatory must offer great views across the park towards Canary Wharf, but the optimum meridian vantage point isn't allowed to reopen until December, and I hear the Time Ball's being repaired at present. If only it were possible to reach Greenwich from North London I'd hop over and check, but a walk through the Foot Tunnel is too claustrophobic at present.



Deptford is still there. You can see it across the Thames from Masthouse Terrace, the historic dockyard still mothballed on the water's edge. It's not entirely impossible that the actual town could have fallen into a sinkhole since I was last there, which was in March, but this would involve impractically conspiratorial levels of cover-up. If the Convoys Wharf development continues to stall, given current economic conditions, the double-arched cast iron Olympia Warehouse may never be surrounded by flats. The incinerator chimney behind appears to be intact and functional, but the most surprising manifestation on the skyline is the St George Wharf Tower in far-flung Vauxhall. If only it were possible to reach Deptford from North London I'd hop over for a closer look, but a journey on the DLR would be entirely non-essential at present.



Rotherhithe is still there. You can see it across the Thames from Canary Wharf, its lowrise flats still skirting a remote bend in the Thames. It's not entirely impossible that the waterfront could have been quarantined since I was last there, which was in March, but I think I saw actual people on the opposite shore. The presence of the Shard in the distance suggests that significantly more of South London exists, not just the bits that I can see, but I'm unable to hop over for a closer look. Only a masochist with a death wish would walk through the Rotherhithe Tunnel so I'll not be trying that. Meanwhile Thames Clippers are suspended so that's not an option, and the Mayor has alas cancelled the footbridge which was supposed to have spanned the Thames at this point. The Thames provides an almost impenetrable barrier at present, at least to those of us avoiding public transport or confined spaces, so I continue to stare across the river without being able to cross it.

I hope South London is still there when all this is over. I miss it.


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Life viewed from London E3

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