Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Back on the Thames

As I click to publish this post my desk and chair are undulating on a gentle Soho swell - one of the stranger phenomenological consequences of my current mode of transport.

On July 7 the bombers gave me little alternative but to return to the river and I have kept up the waterborne journeys to and from Savoy Pier ever since.

Whilst I worked in Covent Garden between '91 and '92 I used to splurge to work on the original riverbus service until its premature demise. Thames Clippers inherited a few of the newer catamarans abandonned in St Katherine's Dock when the old consortium went down. These were re-christened Star, Sky and Storm Clipper and now serve up a bit of cramped and noisy nostalgia for those pioneering early days.

The flagships of the new fleet are the Hurricane clippers, which inside have the sanitised ambience of floating conference auditoria, though you can sit oustide on the rear deck and get a facefull of spray. Best of the bunch though are the mid-sized Sun and Moon clippers, which have more space aft for deck cavorting.

I'm keeping it up, not just because of the recent nice weather and the distantly lingering threat of a detonating dervish on the Undergound but because I get to work and then home again in a good mood, with a pleasant feeling of having had a little adventure.

Of my fellow river-farers, I'd say that the passcard holders tend to sport a steadily smug look , but the out-of-towners look around them with such genuine astonishment and glee that it's infectious.

The other morning while we stopped at Bankside pier, I set myself the task of looking at St Paul's with fresh eyes. It's hard - there's a memory-mould in my head that only a glimpse of the external form of the cathedral instantly activates. But since its recent scrub, the colonnaded cylinder beneath the dome shimmers in the sunlight in a way that for a while at least will register as engrossingly unfamiliar.

A bit like an oil painting I reflected as a fluttering line of little black birds drifted diagonally across the dome; and then I realised that what this scene really evoked wasn't fine art at all, but one of those marvels of CGI architecture, like the Coliseum in Gladiator.

This morning on my uphill stroll from the riverbank I found the pavement in Mercer Street blocked by an enormous mottled grey gull, of the kind you are far more likely to see cruising above the cliffs of the Costa da Morte in Galicia, than outside the entrance to a mansion block in London's West End.

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