This is Canary Wharf, in London’s Docklands development. OH took this photo from the balcony of our hotel the last time we stayed there. We had a beautiful suite, with the Thames running below our windows, and a perfect view of the city. At low tide the shore was exposed, along with all sorts of flotsam and jetsam.
It was on that mud, just over a hundred years ago, that my grandfather’s family scraped a living. In the early twentieth-century version of repair, re-use and recycle, they salvaged everything they could to sell on, or use themselves. They went everywhere on foot, and lived in conditions you only see in the film Oliver! nowadays. As a child, my grandfather was saved from his awful hand-to-mouth existence by the charity Barnardos, and later by signing up with the Royal Corps of Signals in the British Army.
Grandad wouldn’t recognise the old place now. These days, Docklands is a place of high finance and expense-account lunches. Planes skim over the sight of his miserable early life every few minutes, on their way into London City airport. Nobody walks anywhere, unless they are so hard-up they can’t afford public transport. The National Health Service, together with networks of rules, regulations and safeguards should mean no family struggles as my grandfather’s did.
That’s a relief, but with big gains has come at least one loss. The only thing Grandad liked to remember about this early life was the community spirit. Everyone struggled to survive, but they did it together. There was always time to talk with your neighbours—if only to tell them the bailiffs were coming!
They used to say it takes a whole village (or in Grandad’s case, warren) to raise a child. These days we have electronic babysitters, with screens instead of faces. With sipper bottles, onesies, adult colouring books and Haribo adverts, nobody has to grow up if they don’t want to. There’s no time to talk to anyone, and no need, either—if you’re glued to Pokemon Go, nobody’s going to disturb you.
It’s a form of escapism. I’d rather lose myself in a book!
What do you think is the best thing about life today, and what’s the worst? There’s a copy of my feel good, light-as-a-summer breeze romance, My Dream Guy, for a comment pulled out of my beekeeping hat by midnight on 8th August. If you can’t comment, email me instead! christinahollis(at)hotmail.co.uk