“A few years ago, I decided to walk on the foreshore of the Thames from Battersea Park as far to the east as I could. I had observed over the years that, at especially low tides, quite large areas of hardened mud were exposed; these were either studded with pebbles and flints, or gave way to chunks of concrete slipway, or elided into true shingle. Naturally, being the sort of man I am, I hadn’t made a comprehensive survey of either the littoral or the tide table, so I soon found myself wading thigh-high in the obscuring mocha of the waters, and feeling the thick silt ooze between my sandals and my soles. Impulsiveness has at least this virtue: it impels you.
“I’ve lived in Stockwell, about half a mile south of the Thames, for the past 17 years. At best, it has provided me with amazement: like the time when I was cycling over Vauxhall Bridge, saw a small crowd gathered by the parapet, and dismounted to see a poor whale who, scrambled up by sonar, had made his way upriver to die. And at worst, it allows me some sense of the physical landscape that underlies London‘s portentous human geography: its hulking blocks and loitering street furniture set along elongated and repetitive arterial roads. To feel the city’s location as topographically (rather than financially) determined, it’s necessary to either gain sufficient height to see the lazy S-bends uncoiling along the floor of the valley, or go down to that river itself.”