Gospel Oak & Highgate

We can carry on for years and years doing exactly the same thing- and one day, for no apparent reason, something snaps. I will be leaving North London later this month after 10 years here, the past six in the same place. This is in large part down to a rental market that has gone quite mad, and the growing suspicion that I might be on borrowed time, but I voluntarily chose to leave when I could have stayed put for a few more years. You can spend an eternity perfectly happy with your lot, then one day wake up and realise that it’s time for a change. Suffice to say that during my remaining days in this area I’ll try to get out for a couple of tours in the company of Nairn, and -if today is anything to go by- realising that there’s some good stuff I’ve been taking for granted.

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Isle of Dogging

Since Nairn mapped the city in 1966, perhaps no part of London has altered as much as the Docklands. A new Tokyo has arisen from the primordial brown water of the Thames, all driverless trains overhead and thrusting glass steeples to Capital, and the wharf warehouses have gone from slums to (like almost all of London) places where only the very, very rich can live. This is the original Millwall; my Lions moved South of the river in 1910 and will never come back, nor the dockers that supported them. Today, the poor folk making up the numbers are largely Bangladeshi. I wonder what Nairn would make of Canary Wharf. There’s a Jonathan Meades essay on the pleasures of an area that “lacks most of London’s definable qualities… it could be anywhere”. Guidebook in hand, on this walk I looked less at the showpieces of the new Docklands, and more at the oddities that have fallen between the cracks. Trying to get a picture of how things were from these fragments, however, can be like looking at two isolated pillars in the Roman Forum and asking your brain to conjure up a vast Augustan temple. You need to use your imagination.

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