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.
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…
Last week I didn’t go into work.
I woke up at 5.30am each morning, rode my bike to King’s Cross and performed the ashtanga yoga primary series in a room with 200+ people as Sharath Jois counted out the asanas. Then I drank coffee. I had planned to do some stuff that I’ve never got around to doing – you know, cultural stuff – but instead I just drank lots of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I hit up many of the London coffee shops I’ve been meaning to visit. And then I rode my overcaffeinated self back home to my flat and lazed around. And I went to bed at 10pm just so I could do it all over again the next morning.
Do I regret not doing London stuff that I had lofty ideals to do at the beginning of the week?
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.
A disturbing discovery on my luggage conveyor belt at Gatwick.
I woke up naturally this morning at 7am, looked out at the sunshine streaming in the window and decided to go back to sleep. Then my alarm rudely interrupted my slumber at 9am, and I rolled out of bed begrudgingly. Washed my face. Threw on some clothes. Headed out the door.
The 37 bus bound for Brixton came trundling up to the stop just as I got there, which was fortuitous. I put on some classical music and slowly woke up, staring at Southwest London passing by outside the window.
I alighted at Clapham Common 20 minutes early – such is my fate when London buses actually run on time – and soon realised I’d terribly misjudged the weather. It was fucking cold. And windy. And cloudy. I couldn’t even go into The Black Lab Coffee House, because it wasn’t open yet.
I stood in a sliver of sunshine on the pavement. When it disappeared, I jogged in place for a while, inviting curious stares from passersby.
10am approached and Lizzie arrived. We entered our intended destination: Portishead’s Dummy was playing in the background; I ordered a flat white and walnut-and-raisin toast; all was well with the world. We gluttonously ordered an enormous slice of carrot cake; I ordered an americano; the world was still well.
What does one do after spending a morning in Clapham Common? She goes to Tooting Broadway. She goes to Tooting Broadway and gets an £18 pedicure.
Lizzie and I mooched about the shops in Tooting some more. I bought a dress (as I’m wont to do). We ate some delicious Indian street food for the extravagant expense of £1.95. Total. Seriously, people. If you’re looking for cheap-as-chips pedicures and Indian food (and who isn’t?), Tooting is calling.
I came home. I sat around. I had some tea.
I got bored, so I started taking pictures.
I was still bored. So I made Red take a walk with me along the river.
We saw some rich people looking bored in their helicopter land at the Battersea heliport.
I took some more pictures.
Then we went to the pub.