Friday, 3 February 2017

A Cable Street constitutional.

Sometimes when the rest of the TADS aren't available Shep & I (the D and the S of the TADS) allow ourselves a little non-affiliated walk. We go off book. We may visit more pubs than normal. We might not have an Indian. Shep might not request a Bangla.

We'd spoken for a while about hanging one around Cable Street (where a motley band of communists, socialists, dock workers, Jews, and anarchists fought a battle with the Metropolitan Police who were protecting a walk by Oswald Mosley's fascists in 1936) and what with us both being off work on an unseasonably mild Monday in January it seemed the time was right.

I met Shep in the usual spot. On the mezzanine of Waterloo station, looking out at the big clock, and drinking a cup of tea from Benugo. We soon headed out on to Waterloo Road, swung a left into The Cut, and along Union Street until we reached Borough High Street. London Bridge seemed to appear very quickly. We looked down a grey and still river to Southwark Bridge and passed across into the City proper.

We paused for a quick look at the Tower of London. I remembered a visit I'm made there in 2000. I'd enjoyed the historical tour and the architecture but felt aggrieved at having to pay to look at the Queen's jewellery. Something I'd already paid for through no choice of my own.

It got my political back up just in time for entering Cable Street proper. I try not to use Wetherspoon's too much these days after founder Tim Martin's backing of Brexit but I really needed the bog so we stopped for a soft drink in The Goodman's Field, a less grim than normal branch on Mansell Street. From here we cut a block south and picked up Cable Street itself.

The DLR runs parallel to the north and a cycle superhighway passes along it now but the smattering of blue plagues tell of quite a colourful history. We passed the former homes of lightweight boxer Jack 'Kid' Berg and the British-Jewish doctor Captain Hannah Billig who, due to her efforts during wartime, became known as The Angel of Cable Street.

We also had a brief glance inside the restored Wilton's Music Hall. They were preparing for a show that evening so we weren't permitted a longer look. The bar had a very appealing wild west feel though. Surely a good pit stop for a future East End walk?

The best site of all is the Cable Street Mural. Painted in the style of the Mexican muralists by Dave Binnington Savage, Paul Butler, Ray Walker, and Desmond Rochfort between 1979 and 1983 to commemorate the 1936 battle. It combines fisheye perspective and the influence of Goya to show the confrontation between anti-fascist campaigners and mounted police. Sadly it seemed more topical than ever. It was not to be the last anti-police thing we'd see on our walk. As you'll surely spot as/if you read on.

We passed by Shadwell station, Shep gave some spare change to a very unwell looking young man on the street, and we came out in Limehouse on Commercial Road. Frank's Café seemed to be calling us in. I had my favourite yellow meal of cheese omelette'n'chips and then, suitably refreshed, we continued down past Limehouse Town Hall with a brief stop to have a look around the graveyard of St.Anne's.

A textbook alcoholic sat swigging from a bottle on a bench in the churchyard. I'm not criticising him. I've not been far off that a few times. I've written about the mysterious pyramid in the grounds of Hawksmoor's church before but I struggled to recount the details to Shep as we considered it further.

From here we dropped south to the top of the Isle of Dogs. Round the Museum of Docklands, across the floating bridge, past the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and out on to the Blackwall Basin.

This side of the Isle of Dogs was unchartered territory for me. We passed by the barges moored both in Blackwall Basin and Poplar Dock and from Preston's Road took a turn into Coldharbour. The Gun on Coldharbour is a pub I'd seen recommended several times. Described as a "lively" docker's pub it'd clearly undergone some serious gentrification. Most of it was given over to diners but we secured a pint by the roaring fire in the rear room looking out across the Thames to the gasholders on the Greenwich peninsula and the Millennium Dome. It felt quite decadent drinking on a Monday lunchtime.

Tempting though it was to get stuck in for a session we dragged ourselves away. Marsh Wall took us across the uppermost boundaries of Cubitt Town and Millwall, sculptures poked out of the river, builders hurried about, and cranes dominated the skyline.

We turned into Narrow Street on Limehouse and had another pint in The Grapes. Sir Ian McKellen, I believe, is the proprietor. There were a couple of loud thespy types in enquiring as to his whereabouts. They were informed he'd be in for the quiz later but as that was still four hours away we continued. Only to another pub. Of course. This time The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, the only pub I know with a noose hanging outside. Clearly not one to misbehave in.

Starting to get dark now we carried along to St.Katharine Docks and had yet another pint in The Dickens Inn. On weekends and during summer a packed touristy mock coaching inn but on a Monday in January something of a local. The news was on. Donald Trump had been being a cunt again. Hard to remember which particular cuntish thing he'd done as it was four whole days ago now and he's obviously done loads of cunty things since. Shep's assessment of his Facebook feed if converted into Basic would read something like this:-

20 GOTO 10

Over Tower Bridge we went. Loosened up by a few pints and letting loose a volley of expletives we were now jolly enough to be singing Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Half Man Half Biscuit songs as we continued down Tower Bridge Road, into New Kent Road, and up Waterloo Road to the Duke of Sussex for one last pint. Another pub with a roaring fire and another that's seen serious refurbishment since my last visit. It'd been a good walk and when I got home and ran the stats through it revealed we'd covered over 20k. At 1 pint every 4k I think we'd earnt it. To the next one (both walk and pint).

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