Thursday, 18 June 2009

Take me to the river

If I were sensible I'd be buying a house right now. While the market is depressed enough for it to be feasibly possible for me to afford a broom-cupboard in Barking, I should be taking full advantage. But herein lies the problem - we're talking London house prices, hence to get even my little toe on the property ladder the areas I could afford to live in are either so far out it's not even London anymore, purely residential areas where one has to take a bus to buy a newspaper, or so downright dangerous the insurance on your house contents would be greater than your mortgage. The bottom line is that I would have to leave Putney, the area in which I am very happy now, and I just can't do that. I couldn't leave the river.
Move further West? More expensive. Move further East? Well that's into The City (and equally expensive). Further East than that? Now we're talking stab-jackets for a quick trip out to buy some more milk. I have the best bit of the River Thames right here in SW15, why would I forsake it?

The Thames in Putney is wide and sweeping, rather than narrower and bendier as it is elsewhere. Due to its size here the grimy scum which floats upon it is far less obvious and easier to overlook. Putney Bridge stretches over the river in a solid, stoney sort of way; no flimsy Millennium Bridge or poncey, twinkly Albert Bridge. Here be rowers, and ducks and sailboats, and herons and sea-scouts (yes, really the 5th Putney Sea-Scouts to be exact). On a sunny weekend afternoon, or even on a pretty dismal one, the earthy towpath next to the river teems with dog-walkers, buggy-pushers, runners, and cyclists. You can get to Hammersmith without navigating the atrocious fly-over. You can wander down to Barnes for an excellent Sunday lunch at the picturesque Sun Inn overlooking the pond. You can check out divinely fit rowers and rugby-players whilst pretending to be taking an improving constitutional with your girlfriends.

But the river is not just there for the high-days and holidays, in blissful weather or when its surface is abuzz with boats and rowers and tourists. Of a quiet evening the river is at its finest. When things at the Accidental homestead get a bit manic, when work thoughts fly through my head like mosquitoes around a tropical watering hole, or even when I just need some peace and watery quiet, I wander down to the Thames. The calming effect of the flat water, be it blue or grey or green or brown at that precise moment, is the perfect antidote to the endless busyness of city life. The herons stalking in the shallows plod slowly through the rippling water and ducks snooze on walls warmed by the day's sun.
Either side of the river, human life goes on, busily. Lights twinkle, people move between trees and cars, vehicles drive along the grey, unmoving tarmac. The Thames flows on, peaceful yet never still. A presence in the neighbourhood which is reassuringly always there, even if you are not.
Like an old true friend, you do not have to see the river all the time to know it still likes you and wants to see you. For weeks you can be apart, without so much as a phone call, yet when finally reunited it is as if you were never apart. The river is always waiting, and always glad to have a catch up.


  1. Wow - fab photo and fabbest penning yet.

  2. some idyllic pubs along some of the area too.

  3. Hello, I've not commented before because I've only just found your blog from Little London Observationists, but the title drew me in because Londoners don't get much more accidental than me. I grew up in a small place in the Midlands too.

    I think you've really well summed up the property problems facing Londoners - I am going to use that take a bus to buy a pint of milk line to explain to my family why I can't live in certain places! I love Putney, though I've never lived there I used to visit when I lived in Hammersmith. I've always lived near the river wherever I've been, I think I'd feel hemmed in if I had to go ''inland''. But right now I live in Greenwich where the presence of the river and its links to area is strange and atmospheric, and if you close your eyes you can actually smell the sea. I love travelling in on the Clipper and being close to the city and London Bridge by boat. You can drive to Kings Cross in 20 mins if you very lucky with traffic, or be at Charing Cross by train in just over 10. I partly chose this area though because I don't feel like I have to go into central London to get somewhere, so much is here.

    It is an expensive area, we couldn't afford to buy anything decent here at the moment. But of all the places I've lived in London it is the most unique, all the others had more in common with each other, not that that was a bad thing.

    Are there any particular areas you think you might buy in? I wouldn't worry too much about missing the bottom of the market, I'm pinnning my hopes on the double dip in housing prices that some are predicting! But as you say, my landlord's taste in grey paint is getting me down.


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