Esoteric London

No. 280: St. Bride’s Avenue, EC4

Posted in Graffiti, London Labour, Wildlife by esotericlondon on March 25, 2011

© Roger Dean_SHI8063 - Roger.Dean.RGB copy

St. Bride’s Avenue, London, EC4. Photo © Roger Dean 2010

Unsentimental Journeys: or Byways of the Modern Babylon – James Greenwood, 1867:

It was a bleak January afternoon, and the grubber’s searching having been unsatisfactory along the shore, he groped his way into a sewer that emptied itself between London-bridge and Blackfriars; now through such low-arched passages that he was obliged to go on his hands and knees, and now through places so narrow that his sides brushed the slime from the wall, all in the thick, murky darkness, and feeling with the toes of his naked feet the useful from the rubbish that lay at the bottom under the mud. It was bitter out on the river bank, and the warmth of the place induced him to stop longer than he should.

Evening came on, and with it so dense a fog as to deprive him of the little light he had from the few gratings above, or, should he get near the outlet, from the light of the fires aboard the coal barges at the wharves. He lost his way; in vain, in his terror, he tried every opening he could feel up and down, bruising and tearing himself. He at last came to a standstill, breathless and exhausted; and to add to the horror of his position, he felt the semi-liquid mud moving about his legs, and he knew the tide was setting in. The place he was in was not more than four feet high, constraining him to keep in a stooping position, his hands resting on his knees. To move one way or another would have been useless, and if it would have helped him he could not have done it – the dreadful thought that, for aught he knew, the water would rise to the very roof, benumbed and paralysed him. Up rose the tide, slow but certain, till it was above his knees, and laved his hands; his legs shook under him, and he would undoubtedly have sunk down had not another enemy besides the rising river at that moment assailed him. A sudden squeal and a sharp pain at the back of his neck told him the rats had found him.

[While Banksy’s rats are now few and far between thanks to the councils’ clean-up campaigns, the capital’s population of real rats continues to increase, growing fat on discarded fast food. R.D.]

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