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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005
    Ancient Works
    Delighted to be reading the latest issue of Smoke: a London Peculiar because how Matt Haynes and co-writers describe their city is witty, informed, microscopic, creative. And quite inspiring for us other describers-of-the-urban. Following, an extract from Matt Haynes' piece Ancient Works (many more extracts here):

    How long does it take a wilderness to grow? This gorse, this grass, these wiry black branches scratching across Canary Wharf's hazy mist, they're all even younger than me. Right till the end of the sixties, ships still blew in on each rising tide to dock by these stones, by these blackened bollards where my Granddad once stood to catch the ropes they hurled, by this chain looping uselessly under the too-high heels of my new winter boots. Walking here, through the gloomy trench of the old lock where the gates have gone and the depth-gauge measures the height of the ivy. I passed a sign telling me golf practice was forbidden. People play golf in Rotherhithe these days. Isn't that a thing? While up on Stave Hill a sleek white windpump shimmers in the last of the sun, pumping water into ornamental waterways no longer filled by the tides. It must have felt so permanent. Then, suddenly, bang, all gone. Wapping, Surrey Docks, the Isle of Dogs, even the Royals out at Beckton - all over, in the space of a dozen years.

    Twelve years. What sort of a timescale is that? What can happen in twelve years?

    No time at all.