London is never finished

Wednesday 21st September   

As I get older I notice more and more that London is never finished, it has actually become one giant building site; what with the Olympics (Westfield and all) and now Crossrail adding to the rapidly frustrating feeling of living in a never-ending treadmill as we continually find new (old actually) sites just ripe for re-development.  One wonders why they (the mysterious planners behind everything) do not simply stop and pause, and ask themselves what they want it to actually look like when it is done; I suspect that even they do not know, they just know they have to constantly keep knocking things down and rebuilding.  And even Oxford Street, the street I used to know so well, feels a stranger to me.  It is being transformed (ripped apart I almost feel) before my very eyes; there is a vast block rising from behind blue hoardings between Bond Street and Marble Arch – the actual site was boarded up so long ago I cannot even remember what used to be there.  This leaves Selfridges, standing opposite, now more than ever resembling a relic from the past, with its’ ornate canopy and gilded clock waving to us from a far more splendid past, as it desperately tries to dream up new schemes to modernise itself, such as all the in-store concessions,(horrid!) and the ploy of having the entire row of front windows identically displaying a single designer perfume, that in all probability will smell just like all the rest, overblown, sickly and instantly forgettable, a bit like Selfridges itself is becoming. It is simply no use trying to get up Oxford Street by bus now, as the behemoth that is Crossrail Bond Street has swallowed up almost all of the road; one wonders if the combination of the internet, the Westfields and the shocking traffic congestion will finally be the death-knell for this beloved shopper’s paradise – or will they simply knock it all down and start again.

I have recently visited an old friend who has bought a flat in dockland, just down by the river on the Isle of Dogs.  She is just opposite Greenwich, where as you know I visited with Adrian and his son Justin on that fateful Saturday afternoon – oh, so many years ago now. I decided to go by tube to Bank, and then the DLR down to Island Gardens.  Although I have been a regular user of the tube and buses I had never before been on the Docklands Light Railway.  It was quite amazing, more like a gentle rollercoaster ride than a railway, and what an innovation – no driver.  We wound our way along the raised track winding between huge blocks of glass curtain walling and over acres of water and I marvelled at the quite incredible architecture.  I felt like Noddy in his little yellow car visiting Toytown; all the steel and glass buildings with funny little triangles and sharp angles or impossible curves, and bright blues and whites and yellows.  But even here, amidst all this modernity, almost a new city in it-self, there were still boarded up sites of grassy wasteland just waiting for the bulldozers and the cranes.

It just amazes me that this project, this city, this town I call my home, this London, is never finished, and never will be.