The train makes its way out of the station, soon settling into a steady rhythm. You can almost hear your heartbeat in time to the dur-dur-dum of the train as it pushes itself along the tracks. The sound always reminds me of lying in bed, listening to the sound of the railway. For some reason, in my mind, it’s always late on a Sunday night.
The suburbs speed by in a blur, one nondescript house, one block of flats after another. New developments spring up at regular intervals. An old building, one I’ve stared at for years, now gone. A pile of rubble one minute, the next diggers in, preparing the ground for another new build. We are often told of a growing housing crisis in the UK but development seems to be moving forward unabated.
The Bedfont in Balham, I’ve looked at this pub as it rushes by in a blur of motion. I have never set inside the place but in my mind, I know what sort of pub it is. A long oak bar stretches the length of the pub, curving slightly at both ends. On the walls are pictures of a bygone era, a portrait of the Queen has pride of place. The carpet is slightly sticky, one too many beers have been spilt here, a musty smell of stale lager, peanuts, and scampi lingers in the air.
We pass the iconic Battersea Power Station, for as long as I can remember the twin towers of this power station have served as a signal, we are close to the centre of London. Now, while the towers still remain, a facade of glass obscures the front of the old building, luxury flats are going up at a frantic pace.
In the 30 minutes, it takes for the train to travel from Redhill to London Victoria I feel like I’ve passed a million people by. There is no end to the suburbs as they quickly become part of a greater London.
Central London is, of course, still iconic enough to distinguish itself. But even there a plethora of new developments has sprung up, the skyline of London is changing rapidly. Travel on the train into London Bridge and the view is manifestly different in the space of a few years. The old style blocks of council flats are still in place but joining them are new dwellings, ever more people squeezed into any space possible. The Shard dominates the landscape.
Coming home to a changed city
When I was growing up, the journey into London was on one of those rickety old trains, with the slam shut doors and a postal carriage. The Oxo Tower was the landmark which always stood out to me then. The Docklands to the east were rapidly being built up; the latest trend for skyscrapers is nothing new.
The Shard may dominate the modern skyline but further up the River Thames, a grander structure is the focal point for many. The focal point in question is Westminster and Big Ben. This is how, late one Sunday afternoon, I found myself on the banks of the Thames alongside 20 or so other photographers. Lined up, mentally jostling to get the best spot for the sunset. A far cry from in Fernie, where I’m more likely to have a bear or moose for company, than other photographers.
There is still an infectious buzz around London. Along the Thames and throughout the backstreets and main tourist areas of London, you’ll hear what seems like a thousand different languages being spoken, see a hundred and one selfie sticks and shake your head a dozen times at the latest fashion trends.
Of course, I couldn’t expect, nor would I want London to stand still, stagnate. It’s the best city in the world and it has to constantly evolve and adapt. It’s up to me to fit in with London, not the other way around. Coming home is never easy… Ah fuck it, I’m moving to the Tignes for the winter.