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…

A very Good Friday

The Easter Bunny was crucified on this day so that I could eat chocolate and spend a blessed morning mooching about in Southwark.

My alarm went off at 6.30am, and up I got. I dressed, shoved some yoga clothes in my bag and headed out the door, greeted by the still-cool air. It was a quiet commute from Wandsworth to West Ferry (via Canary Wharf because the Waterloo & City line was shut); everyone else was sleeping in on their bank holiday, I assume.

Yoga was invigorating, as always. I managed to get up into headstand at the end with straight legs (all the way up) and hold it for the requisite 15 breaths, despite being (down)dog-tired by that point. I even lowered my legs halfway down this time – holding for 10 breaths – all the way back up and down again without losing my focus or balance, thereby crumpling pitifully sideways onto the floor. A resounding success. I’m proud of my abdominal muscles on this day, because that shit is hard.

I hopped on the DLR, which bizarrely was only heading into Tower Gateway, so I decided to take a walk over Tower Bridge into Southwark.

Bombarded by bank holiday tourists on the way over, I forwent the Southbank and instead meandered up Tooley Street over to London Bridge. Borough Market was still relatively quiet. I poked in. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink, so Monmouth coffee was a must. The queue was epic considering how deserted the market seemed – a testament to Monmouth’s greatness (or maybe just to its mainstream appeal). But someone was working the queue and took my order for a medium-roast Columbian white drip*.

I took my coffee away from the shop’s mania and sprawled across a bit of nearby sun-soaked sidewalk.

I’m an urban warrior.**

About this time, I realised my hunger had subsided, if only as a result of the caffeine I’d consumed. But with Borough Market’s delicacies so close by, it would have been negligent of me to leave without eating. Problem is, at 10.30am a Kappacasein grilled cheese sandwich – as mind-blowing as it may be – simply doesn’t appeal. Nor does les pâtisseries de sucre that Borough Market has in abundance. I dunno. Maybe I was feeling really healthy after my 90 minutes of yoga this morning. Because sugar-filled pastries usually find themselves at the top of the list of Things Larissa Really Likes Eating.

I got a box from the Veggie Table instead.

It was kind of disappointing.

So as I walked by De Gustibus, some fresh hot cross buns beckoned me with the promise of better things.

I was met by a jolly old baker. A chatty chap.

JOB: Hello, my dear. What can I get you?

Me: I’d like some hot cross buns, please.

JOB: [packaging buns] And how are you today?

Me: Pretty good, actually. And you?

JOB: Getting better. Was a bit rough earlier.

Me: …oh yeah?

JOB: You American girls, you’re trouble. Just last night, you insisted on taking me out to the pub down there [pointing] and getting me drunk.

Me: Sounds about right.

I took my hot cross buns and my veggie breakfast Southwark-bound. Southwark Street was desolate, just what I needed after leaving London Bridge. The sun was beginning to beat down as I headed toward the Cut. Approaching Waterloo but not quite ready to go back to Wandsworth, I bought myself May’s Monocle and moved towards Lower Marsh.

I ran into one of my colleagues, Gillian, serendipitously and had a chat with her in the sunshine. We started off talking about not-work, but the compulsion to have a whinge about our workplace was just too great and we ended up venting a bit about some goings-on the day before. That was cathartic.


After parting ways with Gill, I continued down Lower Marsh, hoping upon hope that Scootercaffè would be open to welcome me with its backstreet, downbeat arms.

And it did.

*I am a twat – I know.

**Really twatty