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some pictures from a recent, unplanned backstreet walk from Oasis Nature Garden in Stockwell to Battersea power station, down to Nine Elms dock and the Tideway houseboats and back along the river to Vauxhall. I’ve been reading up on what is happening with the development of the power sation here, and have also heard rumours of Peregrine Falcons nesting in the chimneys in the past though I don’t think there are any there this year. I stumbled across the barges and houseboats by accident and really enjoyed taking pictures of them (tho I only had my less than adequate phone camera with me). The tide was so low that most of the boats were nestled into the muddy riverbed. It was facinating to think that across a few hours the boats and floating walkways would rise up several meters with the river.


I step out onto Shaftsbury Avenue but I’m not really met by the Shaftsbury Avenue I stepped in from 8 or so hours ago, I am met by birdsong  and colossal stripes of clear sharp morning light draped across the empty road where I now stand. Is it past home time, or is the rest of London still dancing? It seems no one has got up to go to work this morning apart for the Costa Coffee staff.  I feel timeless, for a moment, and then I am re-orientated by a plumage of clubbers bursting onto the pavement and disappearing down into the tube station. The tube is open, it is officially the next day.

I have not only lost sense of time but also lost sense of place, of myself in central London. The building I just stepped out of is a disused bar in a disused church which had housed a friends birthday party for the night (or morning more accurately).  The building is an ‘empty space’,  if all the world were a city than this would be it’s wilderness and I’m pleased to have stolen a moment in its short autonomous  life before being  scrubbed clean and told what to do. (The building that is, not me, though at this stage in the morning I would welcome both)

I am about to get on the tube when the uniqueness of this no-mans-time strikes me and I suggest to my Brixton bound friends ‘Lets walk home, the light is incredible, lets at least cross the river’. And so we do. We pick a bridge, it’s a toss up between Westminster and Charring Cross and Charring Cross wins in the end. It seems everyone still gets a kick out of crossing the Thames, particularly south londoners, perhaps it’s the affirmation of a boundary, you cant argue with a river, you’re defiantly in south London now.  Perhaps it’s just that it’s a beautiful river and this morning is no exception, she is glistening, in a murky sort of way.  We take a moment on the Southbank side of the bridge to look downstream, East, straight into the blustering winds and morning sun. The tide is low and from our vantage point on the footbridge the river now seems far away and almost outshone by the silvery stretches of beach on either side. There is no hurry, there is conversation and silence, and wind and stillness and then there are two geese! I hear them before I see them, not overhead but from bellow!  A single honk echoes under the railway bridge behind us. The pair swoop up and settle on a large concrete support just below me, they’re not Canada Geese I know this much, they’re bulkier and mostly grey.  They too stand and look downstream, as if like us planning the best route onwards, I envy them for I imagine that they’ll carry on a lot further into the sun and along the river then we will, when at waterloo we’ll  turn south and find a bus no doubt.

‘You shouldn’t live in London’ my companion claims, matter of factly, watching me watch the geese.

‘Why not’  I reply. ‘I wouldn’t get excited about geese in Totnes would I? cup of tea and bus home?’

For a few early hours yesterday morning, the snow covering my little corner of south London lay surprisingly untouched, all was landscape again. Little white mounds of  hibernating  commuter cars lined my street,  pavements lay un paved, edges, form, material forgotten. Or at least to me,  as I indulged in this momentary  wildness outside my front door. Human things, all covered up by a natural thing. This, quite simply  is what most enthrals me. Things that seemed so solid are so very quickly gone, although I’m aware they are hiding below the surface,  it pleases me to think of them as just ‘gone’.

I like to think of the snow cover as a regolith (although perhaps  not technically so, a regolith being ‘the outermost layer of loose, hetrogenous material covering solid rock on a planetary body’. For the record, I am entirely uncertain of whether fallen snow is heterogeneous or homogenous). Yesterday morning the snow was the outermost surface we had to work with and make paths through, to some extent less influenced by the constraints of path, pavement, roads, driveway, crossings, pot holes and markings that would normally govern our movement. for now, we can experience our everyday environment differently, perhaps more driven by our own desire – to walk in the sunny spot, to take the shortcut, to not slip on the ice! In honour of this I walked down the middle of the road as that’s where I get the best view.

Rahima Fitzwilliam Hall

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