Quaint ramblings and occasional reflections of a journeying Aussie musician...

25 July 2009

The Gateway

...9am Friday morning, about two months ago...

Everything's green, everything's wonderful...it's a rare sunny London day, and beams shine through evergreens towering over grassy fields. A squirrel darts across the ground to the right...

My path circuits a large pond, carefully sculptured between meandering bank and weeping willow, so that one might accidentally come across past an eye-catching viewpoint.

I'm wandering through Battersea Park, one of London's gorgeous old 19th century parks, now my local park, and probably the only one that borders the Thames River. Between the original village of Battersea (in parts dating back to the 9th century AD) and the city, this part of the south bank was marshland until the mid 19th century.

And when I arrive at the north-eastern corner of the park to cross the river on Chelsea Bridge, one realises just how different this part of town really is.

To my left, on the opposite bank is the green of Chelsea Barracks, and the view naturally follows west along the shore to the next crossing, Albert Bridge. Most Jazz musicians will know of the Billy Strayhorn tune named apparently after this bridge, the one I'm currently walking over, although for the life of me I can't understand why a tune hasn't been written about the other one, it's glittering, ornate counterpart further upstream.

Behind me to the left is the complementary green of Battersea Park. Halfway between the bridges is the recently constructed Buddhist pagoda; apparently a monk lives somewhere in the park, presumably nearby.

In total contrast to this symbol of peace (indeed in total contrast to anything other than itself!), behind me to the right is Battersea Power Station, the dominant feature of the landscape. The largest brick building in Europe, poised strategically at a bend in the river, it appears to be some long abandoned art-deco fortress defending the city from invaders.

It's hard to describe the overpowering nature of this building using words or even photos. Catching the train into work each afternoon, the line passes to the left of the station, running parallel to another trainline situated on a kind of aqueduct which, in the view from my train, hides where the building meets the ground, giving the building the appearance of floating above it, only adding to it's immensity.

There's a certain unreality to it that has passed over into the world of fantasy...a friend of mine who also lives locally recalls moving here a decade ago, seeing it for the first time, and being totally amazed that the building he'd seen on a particular Pink Floyd album cover actually existed in real life!

The station and the two giant cranes directly in front of it, sitting face to face on the river bank, haven't seen any action since the mid 70s. For this massive open space on the river not far from the heart of the city, every few years, various redevelopment plans come and go. What is to happen with this particular part of London? A housing estate complex, looking rather like a fleet of cruise ships, seems to watch with trepidation from the opposite bank.

I reach the northern side of the river and turn right, past a tall, narrow Victorian-era water tower (?) several stories high. The doors of the pumphouse are open to the street and as I walk past I get a glimpse of the giant silvery intestines within. Jammed in next to them are a collection of sidings from Victoria station, nearly a mile away, the ends of stationary trains parked perpendicularly to the road that runs along the riverbank.

What an odd part of town this is, with its giant mysterious structures littered arbitrarily on both sides of the river!

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