Saturday 07 January 2023 – London.
London, London, London. I do love you so. Sometimes I question that love as it’s very one-sided, and, though today wasn’t the best outing, it also wasn’t a day to be questioning how I feel about this magnificent, crowded, dirty, occasionally smelly and deeply frustrating city I have chosen to (mostly) live in. I wonder if you can have a truly bad day here; other than something untoward happening, which I guess is always a possibility, however unlikely it seems. Of course, if I lived in Paris, Rome, New York or Berlin or any other major city I’m sure I’d feel the same way there as well. Much as I love the wilderness. if I’m honest with myself cities are my real habitat. I should just embrace that more. You can be alone in a crowded place if you want to be, and today I was after a little solitude.
It’s cloudy and grey and cold and windy and rain is threatened, there’s also a train strike affecting all the mainline services into London, though thankfully not the tube. It sounded like a perfect day for a random street walk photo mission into a Saturday deserted city. I had a loose plan, walk about a bit and then take some photos of St Magnus House on Lower Thames St then cross London Bridge and take some photos of Colechurch House on the direct opposite side of the River Thames. Both brutalist buildings. The owners of Colechurch House appear to have big plans for a renovation which I suspect will lead to the destruction of what is already there so it would be nice to capture a little bit of its brutal loveliness.
I have been wanting to take photos of Colechurch House for a couple of years. It is directly opposite the always busy London Bridge Station which is where I leave the train when I go to St Leonards and it’s always busy with far too many people hanging and basically getting in the way of my image taking. I was hoping that with a train strike today it would be quiet. I was going to be disappointed.
Popping out from the tube into the ‘London fresh’ air at Liverpool St Station I was pleased to see it was pretty quiet on the streets with only a handful of people on the ever crowded footpath. I usually come to this part of the city on a Sunday morning; this is the business area so there is little need for anyone to be on the streets, the shops are closed and other than a few stumbling zombies heading home from the Shoreditch clubs the whole area is quiet. I crossed the road and went straight into the back streets and the private Devonshire Square.
I took a couple of photos here, nothing worth sharing and carried on walking through, with no real plan other than ending up by the Thames near London Bridge. I was happy to be aimless and let my camera lead me around.
On the far side of Devonshire Square to Liverpool St is the Middlesex Street Estate, built between 1965 and 1970, with the 23 story Petticoat Tower as the centrepiece, it is named after the much older and world famous Petticoat Lane Market which crowds Middlesex Street during the week then explodes into many of the nearby streets every Sunday. The estate was an unexpected brutalist bonus.
The walk took an unplanned turn for the negative once I left the estate and discovered to my horror there were loads of people about, not thousands but enough to put me off, there didn’t seem to be any reason for the volume of strollers, maybe everyone else thought that a random stroll around London on a train-strike day was a good idea?
I crossed Whitechapel and plunged into the back streets, usually the best bit of any city. I have no idea of the names of the streets I actually walked down as I looped back and forth towards the river. I took a turning here and popped through an alley there though found very little that piqued my photographic interest.
I ended up much nearer Tower Bridge than expected and walked down the riverside towards London Bridge, capturing this reflection of The Shard on the way.
St Magnus House, it appears, was built in 1984 though has the look of classic late 60s brutalism, though missing some of the flourishes. It’s a tough building to photograph as it rubs up closely with its neighbours.
There is a dance school in the building and a number of young dancers were eating lunch and practising on the balcony between the building and the river, prowling around taking photos felt a somewhat inappropriate so I took a couple of images from other sides of the building and then left, hoping for better luck on the other side of the Thames.
For a strike impacted city and train station there were loads of people milling on the streets outside Colechurch House. The roof bar was unexpectedly open, it’s late morning, and there were two bouncers minding the door on the walkway outside; a graffitied area I wanted to take photos of. I left without getting the camera out of my bag, crossed back over the river and walked up to Chancery Lane where I caught the tube home.
it was great getting out for the first time in a while and I really enjoyed the walk, but was ultimately disappointed that I didn’t get to take many photos; however, as I said at the start it’s hard to have a really bad day walking in London.