Dirty Old River


Photo: Jeanette Beckman

I cross Hungerford Bridge above this big, old river. This river that some old poet called Elliott said: “Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song. The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers, silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends”

Well it fucking does now! As I stop and I stare.

I like this bridge. Generally, I hate heights but this is okay. There are no thoughts of suicide as there are on the Archway Bridge. This is a footbridge that creaks yet you know nothing will come ill of you as trains carrying their unhappy passengers to their final destination brush passed your shoulders.

Midstream I stop and look east. The sun drizzles through the wrought iron behind me and bathes the water and panorama in a gentle light.

Zip the jacket to my nose and bask in the glory of being young, foolish and happy. And just ever so slightly drunk. I smile at Japanese tourists that click, and then flick the November cold from their noses and then click again as Waterloo Bridge returns to Tokyo via Nikon.

Makes me smile, that does. Makes me want to hurry to the pub but I need another look at this “dirty old river” that (that) proper poet Raymond Davies fretted over as it rolled and flowed into the night.

Ten minutes – maybe more – I stand there. And then I make haste and cut across the concrete and clay beneath my feet, ignoring all the modern day Terrys and Julies and down Waterloo Road and into The Cut and into Webber Street and into The Stage Door pub.

A light and bitter would be nice and a barmaid pours one to perfection, passing me the remains of the light – in the bottle – and I sit by the fire.

I am early – as usual – but that’s good. I sit and read the Standard and think about ardour and soul and Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. For tonight we are going to the Old Vic to watch their Projected Passion Revue.

The Old Vic, eh? The home of Richardson, Gielgud, Thorndike, Burton and Olivier. And now Rowland. No need for him to “black-up” like Olivier did in Othello. Kevin has soul.

And there are not many white men called Kevin that you can say that about…


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