The last month has been a drag. Various arrests and police crackdowns has nulled the wonderful spike of accomplishment we’ve had in the London scene and with the Brad:pad on it’s last legs, there’s an ‘end of an era’ vibe with most that I’ve spent time with lately.
The subterrannea hasn’t been ventured into by myself in recent weeks. Stories of terrorist alerts in the tube and the sewers, in both London and New York, have concerned me enough to give the city sub structure a wider berth than usual. Many places that we’d previously have waltzed into have been neglected, the love of these spaces tempered by what might happen in the event of authoritative intervention.
‘Making things good again’
NEO Bankside was an exception. Having spent a day in the Brad:pad, Hydra turned up and after typical calamities such as going out without her shoes on, losing her wallet, wetting herself and ending up in the river, we ended up slipping into the swiss-cheese like site via one of about 137 different access points. It really is obscene how one could just walk onto the site and up the stairs like it was a luxury hotel with no doorman.
My fitness isn’t what it used to be. I nearly had a heart attack getting to the top of Shard, and although NEO stands at just 22 stories, I was panting at the top. The wind was up, it wasn’t the best of nights but a beautiful wave of cloud lit by the moon appeared after a while and it was satisfying enough to just sit there and enjoy the views of many buildings that have been scaled in the last few years. A development on land that used to be part of the Bankside Power Station site, this is another in a long list of medium-tall residential ‘skyscrapers’.
London is increasingly becoming that paradoxical city with the police presence and awareness irritating the desire and motivation to explore everything ignited by recent subterranean delights and the heart-pumping stories that accompany these. You can have your cake and eat it, but then you get fat and then you can’t run when you get chased?
Fear is a monster of an emotion, a horrible beast that has the power to paralyse at a time when ignoring it and pushing beyond those rational apprehensions brings the most reward.
‘The heart of this desire’
I still love London, it’s this abusive relationship where you live in perpetual anxiety of the consequences of a misdemeanour but keep going back, pushing on for those moments of intimacy, that mutual love spilt only in those moments the city embraces you and lets you in to those places you didn’t think possible. An escape to another destination excites but there’s unfinished business in London, dangerous opportunities for glory and the personal completion of self created lists of place we so gleefully used to mock when dereliction was all that mattered.
These holy grails sit there for so long, taunting us as we scratch at the door like a cat in the rain. We’ve hit so many places but again, we’ve missed so many too, through demolition, completion, concreting up of access. This drying up of aspiration within this section of the community must surely be the point upon which we step back and look at the alternatives to traditional ‘urban exploration’. Turning our playground into our living room has been as aspiration for so long and taking hold of this mass of brick, glass and steel and turning it into a space we can utilise for everything we could need must surely be the next step in this wonderful urban adventure.
‘Everything that was once new’
The city continues to grow; it always will. The new will be conquered and those so old to have been ignored by this generation will also be taken down a peg or two. Those who say that London is dead are wrong, it’s very much alive and it’s just a different angle to the city that we need to take to re-ignite the love that others are losing. One day another of these grails will surely fall with the continued hard work of those pushing on, and that is the fire at the end of this tunnel that we feed with places like NEO Bankside.