The research on the devils, daemons,
their princes, Satan himself and the Kingdom of Darkness constantly amazed
me. The copious descriptions of Paradise with details about its internal lay-out
ended on a melancholy note: "Exact directions about the location of
Paradise are not available"; and at dinner and tea and during my walks I
kept repeating this sentence: as to the geographical location of Paradise precise directions are lacking.
Onto the DLR at Bow Church for a short ride over roads and tunnels and
waterways to the interior of Canary Wharf. Conditioned air and a tinny tannoy
spitting Top 10 hits temper normal physical settings: blood
temperature cools, the pulse slows, reflexes reverse. Nerve endings wilt
like weeds. Workers stream through tunnels. Reflections run along steel sheets
and bullet-proof glass; shadows across concrete and marble blocks. The
commercial and subterranean atmosphere grips every corporeal part and everything works
in a new way. You get desire back, with little alterations. PLATEAU for foods
and home goods. Sultry teens pout out of Top Shop windows. Unreal aroma of
crushed coffee beans and cold pastry. Delightful Dorothy Perkins lurex twirls
and tight Ted Baker skirts. Watches in a cabinet like cats eyes. Signs evoke,
reveal: Oasis; Pure Beauty; Vision Express; Real Health; Chariot; Crussh.
Health and high efficiency and hunger go together: serve and save tender
relations between bodies, eyes, words, actions. Sensitive people, with
otherwise ferocious feelings, crowd escalating floors. Routines have the appeal
of independence and solitude and overcome fear every single day.
In the court of KINGS, prowling floors and devouring hours whole, it's a cruel
On the escalator ascent from Canary Wharf tube station, out of grey shadows and
bare bulbs, into air and sky and clouds, crushed and cut up by hard but benign
skyscrapers. Dock water rippled, dappled; striated by walkways and railways.
Along the DLR's dirty underbelly, metal mesh-work coils around strips of
back-lit colour. Trains drag along rusty lines.
At Island Gardens, I escape, skip around a boathouse, climb up an iron
staircase for cigarettes and new views. The tide laps up knotted bark like
antlers; blocks of foam and bits of bone; a headless eel whose head,
mysteriously, lies on the bank, as if bitten off and spat out. Monkey trees and
vines grow out of a house. Pleasure boats surf the Thames tidal surge.
Starlings swarm above semi-derelict East Greenwich factories. Walk past wharf
flats owned by young execs and other success stories enjoying riverside
seclusion with wide plasma TV screens and IKEA components. Come along. Come on
to residential (ice) cubes, light-boxes for living in. Fresh turf in
landscaped bumps and hillocks. New Providence Wharf is the Coliseum of
Docklands re-development: an epic curve that traps you beneath balconies and
windows. A capsule in exchange for 90 hours p/week somewhere inside One Canada
Square. (Maybe that's a good deal: life can be fast and full
that way, after all.) The plaza is landscaped to the point of optical
irruption. You could slide across the lozenge-shaped lawn on rubber soles. The
moss is manicured. Tactile tension tips toward chaos. Out! Out! Now! (I'm
to the wine warehouse at East India Dock Basin next to the A1261 overpass, where junctions and
tunnels and apartment blocks replace old traces of tea and spice. A smile from
a Singapore Airlines model on an enormous billboard comforts. Near Billingsgate
market a Drive Thru McDonald's flickers like a mirage among traffic streams.
Sporadic patches of dereliction acquire new dignity. So head back to the
epicenter: the capitol of corporate zen.
I like to sit between the three towers at dusk. Watch them light up; eavesdrop
on mutual infatuation. Around the precinct: enormous glass walls or diagonal
shards the size of ships and gardens planted 200 ft high. London City Airport
planes, the Finance Air Force, embark on European missions. Couples take intimate
strolls around this garden, steel-triffid lamps light lingering steps. Trees
around the quad look as if they have terms of employment to abide by.
Cigarette ends in piles reveal nerves and spite and adrenaline otherwise
denied by this unblemished exterior: clues for fluent trackers. It's impossible
to leave a signature or imprints on stainless steel. As a display of power it's
placid ("who wants to be in love again?"). People pack into
Smollensky's to flirt and boast over white wine and bottled beer as the City
lights up on the horizon. We thrive on envy here, because it's everything. Everything.