After the fifteen inches of fame from Brydges Place, The Way We See It had us up the road for the relative wideness of Goodwin's Court WC2. There was enough room to swing a C List Celeb, seeing as though the alley is lined with agents who represent the mongers who keep Heat Magazine from becoming a modern art monthly.
This is London theatre luvvie land. If you're not an actor then you're a resting actor. Although I fail to understand what is so tiring about standing in front of a half empty audience in the afternoon, slapping your thigh, and then taking a long liquid lunch until you do it all over again in the evening.
I failed the audition
You couldn't just smell the greasepaint, you could also step in it, just as I did leaning against a wet wall to try and compensate for not having a wide angle lens. A young family passing through demanded an encore but I had a touch of stage fright.
I fluffed my lines, and my pics and failed the audition.
The Thames doesn't end at Tower Bridge - just ask the residents of Beckton and Thamesmead who have a gripe about the proposed new Gateway Bridge. A Sunday afternoon Southside stroll saw me hitting the mean streets of Southwark along the stretch of the Thames from Bermondsey to Rotherhithe.
This is 'smelly' London
This is historically 'smelly London' - the big breweries were built along the banks of the Thames as the Fathers of the City didn't want to dirty their hands with such sultry toil and sweat. Instead they preferred the cleanliness of capitalism. Where's there's muck, there's brass...
The Courage Brewery was based along the banks in Bermondsey from 1895 - 1980. It then became one of the first gentrified blocks in the area, starting off a trend that has seen any available old wharf from Tower Bridge out towards Greenwich being given the loft living treatment. Dinner parties must be fun - piss up in a brewery and all that.
Leather and glue also stenched out Southwark as Bermondsey began to grow. Glue still is a Southwark smell - especially around the benches at Burgess Park.
Bermondsey itself use to be a swamp. Out of swamps grow Swamp Things. Jade from Big Brother is Bermondsey girl. You can take the girl out of the swamp etc.
Butler's Wharf me old China use to be London's largest tea chest. Sir Terence Conran converted it into his poncy Le Pont de la Tour restaurant, a place you wouldn't catch me eating in for all the tea in China. Not that I could afford to eat there. Mr Tony famously wined and dined Clinton here in 1997 with Bill's bill for a light lunch coming to just under three hundred quid. Ahhh, 'diverse' London - something for everyone...
(click on thumbs to see large image)
Outside the ghastly gastropub is a charming original Thames Barge. Back in the day when London had an industry that didn't utilise the catchphrase 'can I super-size you?', this boat would have carried coastal cargo such as clay and bricks. Sailing was definitely under economy class with only a Ship's Master, Mate and Boy as the crew. The Barge is called the Gypsy Queen. Maybe they named it after Cherie?
Across the river is the Tower Thistle Hotel. Built in 1968, this concrete slab of a shithole still looks unfinished to me. The physically repulsive eyesore is in good company though as David Mellor lives next door.
A short walk past the poncy pizzerias and you come to the Design Museum. The statue outside was designed by pop art pioneer Eduardo Paolozzi, who also put together the mosaics at the top of the escalator at Tottenham Court Road. Inside the figure's head by the Thames is representation of useful modern day inventions. Bendy busses aren't featured.
St Saviour's Dock is next up, nowadays a far cry from the St Saviour's Abbey that originally stood here. St Saviour's was second only to Westminster Abbey in the Middle Ages and the dock was used to transport goods to the gated community of recluses that lived there. 4x4's do the job now.
The River Neckinger flows into the Thames at St Saviour's. The name means 'devil's necktie' - or hangman's noose, seeing as though the dock is opposite an ancient execution site for Thames pirates.
New Concordia Wharf can be seen past the Dock - actually you can't miss it seeing as though it is painted in the garish colour of goldfish orange. Quite apt seeing as though this is the flat where A Fish Called Wanda was filmed.
It was at this particular stretch of the river where the boundaries between public right of way and knobber multi-millionaire detachment from the real world become blurred. They want to keep the likes of me out and so I had to follow the river around the back streets of Bermondsey.
As mentioned in Oliver Twist, Jacob's Island is next up along by the banks of Bermondsey. This was Bill Sykes' lair in the Victorian classic and is celebrated as Bermondsey's earliest and most notorious slum. Crime clearly does pay, if the six figure asking price for a flat here is any indicator.
Chamber Street SE16 use to be known as 'London's larder' as it houses an old cold storage warehouse where all the meat coming into London up the Thames was offloaded. The industrial shed is now a Hayes storage facility as well as housing film studio locations. London's Burning and The Bill are filmed here.
Cherry Gardens further down the river use to be the site of an Elizabethan spa and is name checked by Mr Pepys when he 'took to the waters' as a healing process to try and remove a stone. Living up to all Blackadder and Hey Nony Nony stereotypes, Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed 'dancing' at Cherry Gardens.
Speaking of nonsense, News International has its headquarters on the North London knobber side of the river at this point. As does Michael Crawford whose town house is next door. Must be handy for newspaper deliveries in the morning.
Back to the Beautiful South and further along the Bermondsey Banks and you can see the foundations of a riverside lodge belonging to Edward III. The 14th Century King had a number of stop of points along the river as he moved up and down from his various palaces.
The Angel pub is currently being restored just around the corner. This was another favourite haunt of Pepys, as well as Turner who painted The Fighting Temeraire after watching the ship being towed from outside The Angel.
Bermondsey Wall East has a statue erected by the river to remember Dr Alfred Salters, the first MP for Bermondsey. This was back in the day when being an honourable member was seen as an opportunity to help the working class and not to make a name for yourself by shagging your secretary. Dr Salters had a vision to 'green Bermondsey' and set out on an energetic tree planting campaign. He insisted on moving his family into the local area, despite the increased chances of his children suffering from the high infant mortality rates. Sadly his daughter soon died and the statue sees the Dr looking across at his daughter by the river.
Past the good Dr's statue is a solitary house that looks somewhat out of place standing all alone by the river. This is the scene where Princess Margaret set up her love nest with divorcee (the cad!) Captain Townsend.
It is at this point of the route where you cross the border from Bermondsey to Rotherhithe. St Mary's is the main street in the area and it is from here where the Mayflower first set sail in 1620. Local legend has it that when the boat was broken up, the timber was used to build the Mayflower pub that now stands here. The boozer has a licence to sell both English and US stamps, should you ever be caught short.
Captain Christopher Jones of the Mayflower is buried in the nearby St Mary's Church. Opposite the churchyard is an old mortuary that was used to store bodies that were pulled out of the Thames. They were left here to dry out until friends and family could identify the bodies. The mortuary closed as late as 1965.
Rotherhithe really is a nice place but by now my homing signals were being set for the return to Sunny Stockwell. Plus I was getting rather lost. I ended up at the Brunel Engine House. Built in 1825 by MARC Brunel, this was the first tunnel underneath the Thames and was designed for carriages. Like most greats feats of engineering, the funds ran out. It was finally opened in 1843 by Queen Victoria and a young Isambard celebrated his 25th birthday by throwing a party in the tunnel built by his father. The tunnel still exists today and is incorporated into the East London tube line.
The next stretch along the river from Rotherhithe to the Peninsula is equally as fascinating, as long as you stay South of course. Here's hoping that others might pick up the pieces.