The Strange Case of Shad Thames

One of the reasons I moved to Shad Thames was the quietness. While Wandsworth Town out in Zone 2 was virtually suburbia in terms of London living, our flat was right on the beginning of the A3 with a bus stop outside. A bus stop! you say – How convenient. Yes, it was convenient, but it was perhaps one of the busiest bus stops in all of Londontown. 20 routes or some shit went through there, with buses stopping non-stop between the hours of 7am and 11pm.

Shad Thames – despite being right on top of Tower Bridge and in Zone 1 – is like Dickensian London in comparison. Minus all the grime and disease, of course. What I’m saying is, you turn off of Tower Bridge Road into Shad Thames and it’s dead quiet – cobbled, walk in the streets, old world and lovely.

Shad Thames by robbinhamman

Except, rather bafflingly, between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

The not-24-hour nature of London meant the buses stopped and my little flat in Wandsworth Town offered quiet respite at the midnight hour. I think I might’ve been awoken in the middle of the night once in the 2 years I lived there – likely due to rowdy drunken revelry, which will happen wherever you live in London.

But Shad Thames? This upright Dr Jekyll turns into Mr Hyde when the sun goes down.

When I first moved in, I sat bolt upright in bed at 3am because it sounded like a fucking aircraft carrier was trundling its way down the street just outside at 1mph.

And the number of times I’ve woken up at some ungodly hour to some unidentifiable – and very loud – noise, well, I can’t even tell you.

Last night, as I lay sleeping at 2am, a howling began. A screeching. Growling. Screaming. Shrieking. Was it an animal? Was it dying? Was something getting bummed outside my window? I did not know. But it slowly started moving down the street, the decibels lowering. I went back to sleep.

And then at 3am, it began again. And then moved slowly down the street. I went back to sleep.

And then at 3:30am, it began again. And then moved slowly down the street. I went back to sleep.

And then at 4am, it began again. And then moved slowly down the street. I went back to sleep.

And then at 4:45am, it began again. And then moved slowly down the street. I went back to sleep.

And then at 5:00am, it began again. And then moved slowly down the street.

And I went back to sleep. But, seriously…

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San Francisco in London

I’m loving living in Bermondsey.

This Saturday, stopping off at Maltby Street Market with my new bicycle (before heading off to Peckham to get it serviced – I wouldn’t have ridden it normally since the market is only 3 minutes away from my flat by foot…), made me realise why. Bermondsey, particularly the grass-roots Maltby Street Market, is like a little slice of San Francisco in London. Independent businesses have popped up shop in a (perhaps affectedly) haphazard way under the railway arches, selling their wares to lazy Saturday punters.

Picking up a piccolo from Monmouth, stopping off at Bea’s of Bloomsbury for some cake, enjoying the laid-back vibe with other in-the-know Londoners, I was struck by how much Bermondsey felt like Hayes Valley.

I love San Francisco. I love London.

It’s positively lovely here south of Tower Bridge.

As for cycling in London – I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner. It’s amazing. No transport costs. No late buses. No sweaty Tube. No delayed Jubilee line. Travel times nearly cut in half. Sure, I haven’t ridden in the rain yet, and the weather has been particularly beautiful for the last week that I’ve been the proud owner of a bicycle. But the fact that I don’t have to deal with buses, Tubes, sweat and other people makes me think I’ll be an all-weather cyclist for good.

Now all I need to do is learn to ride a fixie up some steep hills, and it really will be like San Francisco in London.

 

PS, I don’t own a fixie.

Shad Thames

So on 9 April I said regarding moving flat,

I’m keen on SE1. If I can find a reasonably priced flat in ‘Boss House’ on ‘Boss Street’, then I’m totally moving to Shad Thames.

And now here I am. Living in a flat in Boss House on Boss Street in Shad Thames. The definition of ‘reasonable’ is up for interpretation.

I’ve been in the flat for a week, and – while there are some kinks still left to work out* – I am quite pleased with my new home. Not only is the flat great but the building and concierge are great and Shad Thames, itself, is great. I had some reservations about living in Shad Thames initially, thinking I’d be more suited for the more boho spirit of the Bermondsey Street area. But, having spent time now in both places, I have to say I prefer Shad Thames. Sure, I don’t shop at Reiss and wear loafers (a seeming requisite of the upper middle classes), but I like nice things. I like stepping outside my flat and being surrounded by other people who like nice things. Oh, and I like being so damned close to the river and Tower Bridge. And I like my exposed brick and my enormous warehouse windows.

I bought a bicycle yesterday from a really great bicycle shop in Peckham (definitely not Shad Thames, Peckham). It was only £170 for an aluminium framed step-through hybrid bike with mud guards, a pannier and a bell. And I’ve parked it down in the basement garage. I’m going to start cycling places since I’m so central and there’s the possibility of saving nearly £120 a month in travel costs. Just one more benefit of living just south of Tower Bridge. I rode the bicycle home from Peckham, which took me on the busy Old Kent Road. And, even though I hadn’t ridden a bike since 2005, it came back to me rather easily, and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I imagined it being – riding on the London roads. Granted, it was a Saturday afternoon. We’ll see how I feel about cycling when I’m doing it in the pissing rain in November, battling all the cantankerous cab drivers…

Still, feeling pretty smug…

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* need to get a second set of keys cut, need to get a key to the basement garage, need to get two sets of blinds fixed, need to get the refrigerator looked at, need to get the pilot on 2 hobs in the kitchen fixed

Bermondsey on my mind

My lease is up at the end of July.

I’ve always been a bit annoyed by how far away Wandsworth is from the ‘rest’ of London. And by this I mean my friends, who primarily live in Islington and East London. The fact that it takes me an hour to commute home from work from Canary Wharf and that I have to get up at 5.30am just to get to my yoga studio in the morning for pre-work ashtanga means that a move is on the cards.

I’m also continually annoyed (/infuriated) by the shit transport links to and from Wandsworth. I was on a train last night, as an example, that had been delayed by 15 minutes due to a lack of train staff available to drive the train, and then the train stopped indefinitely at Queenstown Road because of a ‘massive fight’ that had broken out. The police had been called. I waited patiently. I waited not-so patiently. I disembarked and hailed a fucking cab home.

But where to move to?

I don’t want to live in either Islington or East London, despite being quite happy to spend lazy weekend afternoons in these areas with my friends. I can’t quite explain why. I just don’t. Islington is too over-saturated and American. And East London is too twatty, gritty and scary. Despite what some people think of me (that I am a hipster and belong in East London), I’m really just ridiculously middle class – a woman who likes nice things and nice places and being surrounded by other affluent, professional people.

A quirky sense of style does not a hipster make.

So it was with this in mind that Red and I began our new neighbourhood search. We tried Bow (in East London) several weekends ago. I didn’t feel safe there in the middle of the fucking day, much less at night. This did not tick my ‘being surrounded by affluent, professional people’ box.

Thinking East, the logical option became Bermondsey, just that it’s south of the river. I’d spent some time in Bermondsey, myself, and always quite liked it. Getting Red on board was the next step.

With the promise of the best doughnut in London, I got Red on a train at 8am on Saturday morning, heading out to London Bridge. We alighted, climbed to street level and made the quiet stroll over to Druid Street, just south of Tower Bridge. We walked along the railway arches, occupied by a mattress shop, a garage, a fruit and veg vendor. And there it was. St. John Bakery’s pop-up shop with the most delicious doughnuts of life. Two doughnuts and £4 later, we headed around the corner to Monmouth’s pop-up on Maltby Street.

Columbian and Peruvian drips were ordered; seats were taken outside; doughnuts were scoff-ed and coffee, imbibed.

I was a happy woman.

Red was starting to see the greatness that is Bermondsey.

We headed back to Tower Bridge Road and south to Bermondsey Square. We mooched up Bermondsey High Street. We went back to London Bridge to check out Borough Market before the masses descended upon it.

A stroll along the Southbank back towards Tower Bridge amongst the tourists, and we ended up in Shad Thames. Initially I saw the J-Crew-wearing yuppies pushing their prams alongside the Thames and eating their posh breakfasts al fresco and thought, ‘I don’t think I fit in here.’

After a wander about in Shad Thames, we headed back into proper Bermondsey for a closer inspection of the kind of accommodation we might find ourselves living in. We stopped at a gastropub for a generally disappointing lunch, but I was undeterred.

Back up to Shad Thames and into a couple pubs for some drinks, and I saw a few more people wandering about, definitely not the J-Crew-wearing types, albeit still young and professional. Maybe I could live in Shad Thames. Of all the places we’d seen, it certainly ticked my box.

And there you have it. I’m totally digging Bermondsey and Shad Thames.

I’m a complete and utter yuppie.

Who just so happens to wear silly spectacles, dress unconventionally and listen to weird music.