In winter quarters

 

Betty Alan’s going to have to work for her living, and in the winter months is going to be a London flat, in Limehouse Basin, between Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge.

The basin, where the Lee Navigation meets the Regents Canal (which in turn joins the Grand Union Canal that connected the Midlands and London) and where both debouch into the Thames, once heaved with real things being moved around the world in the great contractions of Empire. It is now between the two hubs of the new Britain, where the only things that move are digits and money. We see the lights blazing all night in the towers of Canary Wharf: have any buildings of that size ever appeared so temporary? There is an insubstantialness to the whole place.

Our end of the basin is a colony of narrow boat dwellers – a population that embodies the essence of adjacency – providing an attractive contrast to the dystopian world populated entirely by ambitious young accountants in over designed apartments. The actual East End continues, just 100 metres away, the other side of the A13, behind the riverside fringe of prosperity that’s as thin as the veneers on their temples at Canary Wharf.

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