The Isle of Dogs, the River Lea and the Olympics, a set on Flickr.
Regular readers will know that, after the rainiest spring in living memory, I found myself unable to stay in the house when the sun started shining again. My mission to take advantage of the good weather, and to take exercise and stretch my eyes and my mind beyond what I was beginning to regard as the confines of my computer, has resulted, over the last few months, in numerous journeys around London by bike. With my camera close at hand, the intention of these journeys has generally had less to do with getting from A to B than with wandering, getting lost and exploring.
I recently set up a Flickr account, initially posting photos of my trip to the US in January to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo, and of other protests in the UK, but this week I also began posting photos from my London journeys, beginning with a set of photos of my initial cycle journey around Deptford and Greenwich, and continuing here. Others will follow soon.
I am, I think, fulfilling a long dormant need to be in motion physically rather than constantly undertaking the mental journeys of the last five years of my life as a full-time freelance investigative journalist, and I am also at the beginning of a long project to travel — and photograph — the whole of London by bike. I have discovered that, as well as looking for spectacular views of the city that has been my home for 27 years, including many that I have never seen before, I am also in search of forgotten corners, and images of decay, often set against those of what is often termed “regeneration,” as well as the explosions of dissent and nonconformity and colour that are to be found in London’s street art.
I am also getting to know London as a huge living entity, in some ways dominated by history, in other ways expressing itself almost entirely in the present, and with its boroughs and neighbourhoods each having their own stories, and their own personalities.
Through it all runs the river, the sky and nature, although my journeys, more often that not, have also involved me reflecting on the place of property in London’s life — the ancient housing stock, largely gentrified, and in many places a magnet for the aspirational middle classes and those financing them and keeping a bubble alive beyond normal expectations; the council estates conceived by utopian, though often misguided town planners; and the remorseless modern developments that have left virtually no piece of land unclaimed in the capital, and which, over the last 30 years, have completely transformed the river, with new blocks and refurbished wharfs everywhere to the east of the City, on both the north and the south banks of the Thames.
On Tuesday, as a minor heatwave hit London, I decided to cycle down to the River Thames at Greenwich, and to take my bike through the foot tunnel that connects Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs, the home of Canary Wharf, Margaret Thatcher’s vision for a new City of London that really came in to its own under Tony Blair’s Labour government, when the boom years took off once more on the back of the kind of thinly-veiled criminality that has recently been exposed in the scandal of Barclays involvement in the illegal rigging of interest rates.
I had no plan when I set off, beyond a hope that I would be able to cycle alongside the Thames, and pursuing this plan became my latest adventure — taking me opposite the Millennium Dome, past Canary Wharf, and into Tower Hamlets — to pockets of decay and creativity where the River Lea feeds into the Thames — and, from there, to the Royal Docks, where some Olympic events will take place next month, and where the newly installed cable cars which can be used to cross the river from beside the Dome — and which are technically known as the Emirates AirLine — end their short but spectacular journey across the Thames.
It was here that my journey also ended, as my camera battery ran out, but I fully intend to revisit the area soon, and to capture what I can of developments relating to the Olympics, as we count down to the start of the Games, less than a month from now. Anyone who read my article, Our Olympic Hell: A Militarised, Corporate, Jingoistic Disgrace, will know I have no love for the Olympics — and that, in particular, I find the orgy of spending on the Games to be morally indefensible when so many poor and vulnerable people are suffering ideologically imposed austerity cuts — but I am interested in how the Olympics site impacts on its surroundings, and what the security will be like as the start date approaches.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Carol Anne Grayson wrote:
Brilliant… will take a look, thanks for share… you should call it Worthington on Wheels
Paul Truthseeker Duckworth wrote:
I’m surprised you wasn’t arrested Andy, taking so many photo’s…..great piece
Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
Very good idea, Andy! Besides when you ride a bike you come places you wouldn´t see from a car or a bus…we love our bikes here in Denmark!
Zilma Nunes wrote:
Nello Bucciero wrote:
“Under this hot sun it’s great to cycle…but it really make you sweat!…” Thank you for your pictures, Andy!
Thanks, Carol, Paul, Toia, Zilma and Nello. Great to hear from all of you. Paul, I’ll try and get close to the Olympic sites over the coming weeks, and see how it goes with taking photos. The great thing about being on a bike, of course, is the opportunity for quick getaways …!
Nello Bucciero wrote:
Being on bike you “stay healthy” and that’s much better!!
GOP Americans and UK Tories cut from the same cloth – a rotted, musty bolt left in some crypt long buried and dug up by narcissists and psychopaths. In your travels, if you come upon that crypt, please re-bury it so no more cloth can be pulled
Anyway – photos are great…
[…] week, after skirting the edges of Canary Wharf on several of my recent bike rides (see here, here and here), as part of my new and ongoing project to travel the whole of London by […]
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