Thursday, March 22, 2012

Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now, As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It by Craig Taylor (Harper Collins 2011)


Former Londoner

She has recently returned to Warsaw after spending a year working in a pub in Kilburn. Her voice through the telephone is raspy, and I can hear her daughter playing contentedly behind her.

I REMEMBER THE ENGLISH WEATHER, English cigarettes, gray skies, but sometimes beautiful skies, Oxford Street, Topshop. Irish men in my pub all day. They were so sad but also very funny, and also very respectful. They ask me what I was in London for. I said to them: money. I asked them what they came to London for. They said: money. They sit still for so long, all day, and some tell you things at the end of the night that you don’t want to hear. I remember the music, the light of the pub, the Guinness, the waiting for the Guinness. That was one of the first things I learned in London: to wait for the Guinness with them.

I would make time each day to call my daughter, Alexandra, who was four and living with my mother in Warsaw. I would text my mother to make sure it was a good time. It was hard to hear my daughter from so far away. She comes on the phone, she doesn’t always speak to me, and I said, “Come on, say something,” and there was her breathing and other small sounds but sometimes no words, and that is so hard to hear. Just sounds. It made me wonder if she knew it was me. She did. That is when you think, what am I doing in London? How much do I make? What do I have to do before I go home?

I remember the old churches, the London Eye, Shoot Up Hill, and many women who are well-dressed, though not in Kilburn. My money, my toothbrush, my mobile phone, my sim card, my makeup, my shampoo, some clothes, some clothes I never took out of my bag. Primrose Hill once for an afternoon. I ate my lunch there. The buses. Always listening to Polish people on the buses. They think that no one understands them.

“Where are you going?” they asked at the pub when I left, and I said, “I am going home.” They knew about my daughter because they sat in the pub all day. “Don’t leave us,” one man said t


CEO, Canary Wharf Group PLC

The Tower of London, that is the dividing line. William the Conqueror created the Tower: to the west was money and pleasure, and to the east was poverty, and it is still here. It tells the story of London, that for so long all this area had no transport. When we started building Canary Wharf in 1987, the Jubilee Line didn’t exist, and the DLR was just one line here and a bit of line going to the Isle of Dogs. That was the whole transport. How could it be that a city as rich as London has the whole eastern part of the town with no transport? How could you expect all these people to go to work? I mean it was a reservoir of cheap labor, but you didn’t even give them the opportunity to be slaves.

Today Canary Wharf is 15 million feet and there’s another 10 million feet to go. So it’s two and a half times the size that we looked at the first time. Canary Wharf is the most important thing to happen to London in the past one hundred years, and probably Crossrail is going to be the next one. It has an extension that goes to London Bridge, which makes a big difference; it starts creating the network of transport. We designed the Jubilee Line in such a way that it intersects with every other line. It is just two steps to come to Canary Wharf. Crossrail will change London forever, because a lot of the companies in Canary Wharf or in the City would like to use a lot of the manpower coming from the east. They are more economical, not having to pay the rents of Kensington, Chelsea, and Mayfair. And those areas have different salary expectations. So the labor force coming from the east is cheaper. The east of London will become the dormitory of London, because what London is missing is the Queens and the Brooklyn of New York. You don’t have a place where the nurses and the teachers and the policemen and the firefighters can live very close to the city. If they all have to travel two or three hours to get to work, how productive are they and how tired are they by the time they get home? So the east of London is going to be where all these things happen.

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