Pining for the simple joys of lockdown

I AM sure I am not alone in looking back nostalgically to the halcyon days of the London lockdown.

Remember the traffic-free streets, the near deserted parks and squares, and the louder than usual twittering of the birdies in the trees? It seems an aeon ago now since the only jarring note was the insistent pitter-patter of the joggers.

Now, after a couple of hot days, lumpen London is back with a vengeance.

Early on Friday, venturing the few yards to our nearest reveller-blasted patch of grass, I was hailed by my first passive-aggressive drunk of the day.

But before we could establish a rapport, our exchange was interrupted by a hue and cry for a fat, shirtless inebriate who had grabbed someone’s phone and was staggering precariously from the scene of the crime.

The old neighbourhood’s back to normal, I reflected, and all before 9 AM!

At a nearby park, meanwhile, armed police were called out to deal with two men taking pot shots at wildlife on the lake. “It is possible one duck was killed,” Southwark Police announced, “but we are not sure yet.”

It’s understandable that everyone’s a bit stir-crazy after months of lockdown. Add to that a couple of days of heat and sunshine and the full gamut of the city’s underlying derangement is set loose.

It’s not a class thing so much as equal opportunity mayhem, although some Bermondsey locals have been muttering on social media that it’s all down to “them middle class hipsters”.

The noisy hordes that have descended on our local parks are clearly not short of a bob or two to judge by the plastic cups of half-consumed takeaway mojitos abandoned among the detritus carpeting the grass around the empty litter bins.

I’m all for everyone having a good time. But I’m not sure their dawn braying is much appreciated by the many ordinary Londoners who have been enduring weeks of genuinely sleepless nights, worrying how they’ll pay the post-lockdown rent or looking after fractious kids and grumpy grannies.

And all this before yet another of our interminable “Independence Days” on July 4 when Boris “fit as a butcher’s dog” Johnson has declared that the real post-lockdown party should begin!

Some people have inevitably tried to score political points by criticising government messaging on containing Covid, as if Johnson’s announcement of an end to “national hibernation” was somehow an invitation for us all to go outdoors.

Adherence to the lockdown had, in any case, already been in decline since Dom “the dodger” Cummings’ dash to Durham was exposed.

But, if you’re worried about more high jinks on the 4th – the police certainly are – I recommend retreating to the City, the still eye of any bacchanalian London storm. There’s nothing to do and few people live there, so it’s slim pickings for those who like to annoy the locals by yelling in the early hours or vomiting in the street.

I hung out in the square on Abchurch Lane this morning. As you can see: empty.

The City and its outskirts were not always so quiet, and the noisy gangs of litter-strewing tossers who have been keeping us awake all week are not a new phenomenon in a historically riot-prone and disorderly London.

Writing about a pre-Lent pissup in 1617, the contemporary commentator John Chamberlain wrote:

“The ‘prentices, or rather the unruly people of the suburbs, played their parts in divers places, as Finsbury Fields, about Wapping, by St Catherine’s, and in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in pulling down of houses, and beating of guards that were set to keep rule.”

Happy Independence Day, and see you down the pub!

City Hall: The sad demise of municipal London

SADIQ Khan has said he wants to plug a post-Covid hole in London’s budget by moving City Hall from the riverside opposite the Tower to the middle of nowhere.

The London mayor seems a decent enough bloke. You sometimes see him scurrying towards the Norman Foster-designed bubble that has housed the Greater London Authority since it opened in 2002.

He has worked out that over the next five years the cash-strapped GLA could save £55 million it pays to its Kuwaiti-owned landlords if it decamps eastwards to Newham.

Now, just think about that for a minute. The government of one of the world’s richest and most international cities has got to move out of the centre because it can’t afford the rent!

And to Newham, for God’s sake! When the much more powerful London County Council called the shots, until it was disbanded in 1965, the site of Khan’s proposed alternative City Hall premises in the Royal Docks was still technically in bloody Essex!

The planners dithered for years over what to do with the stretch of post-industrial wasteland south of the Thames between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. They eventually settled on the banal modern urban planning solution of privately-funded corporate office blocks and luxury flats.

The saving grace was City Hall, together with the open-air theatre, the Scoop, alongside it. The developers built City Hall for £43 million, or £12 million LESS than Sadiq is now hoping to save in rent.

Heralded at its inception as “a new landmark for the capital”, City Hall was neverthelss a bit of a climbdown from the glory days of County Hall, the Edwardian Baroque edifice on the South Bank near Waterloo.

As headquarters of the LCC and its successor, the Greater London Council, it dominated every aspect of London life from education to housing, from public transport to the fire brigade, barely tipping its hat to Parliament on the opposite bank.

Teachers told us kids that it had six miles of corridors, although I’m not sure anyone ever walked them all to check.

It was abandoned after big-spending council leader Ken Livingstone’s frequent run-ins with Margaret Thatcher during which the PM complained of the anti-government billboards that were posted on County Hall’s facade.

She scrapped the Council in 1986 and its powers reverted to central government and local boroughs. The building was sold off to become part-hotel, part-aquarium.

The GLA was formally established in 2000, with the troublesome Livingstone back in the chair until 2008, when he was unseated by Boris Johnson. The rest is history.

Johnson bequeathed us “Boris” bikes (they’d been Ken’s idea) and a bunch of pet projects that never went ahead, except for his one to become prime minister.

Municipal London is essentially dead. It relies on stingy, controlling and centralising governments at Westminster for additional funds. Its elected but now essentially advisory council has few real powers. The Mayor proposes policy and the councillors can merely try to hold him to account.

The GLA doesn’t directly run any services, but merely presides over bodies that do. These include Transport for London, entirely funded by ticket sales, which have been virtually non-existent for the past three months. Hence Sadiq’s scramble for savings.

He can’t sell off any libraries, youth clubs or open spaces because most of those were disposed of years ago.

So he says he’s got no choice but to move out of the jewel in the crown. What will City Hall become? Another corporate office? Just what we need.

I am personally prepared to do a deal with Khan. I’ll drop my opposition to the City Hall move, if he reinstates the RV1 bus.

This nifty single-decker, linking the south bank of the Thames from Tower Bridge across to Covent Garden, was my favourite route until he scrapped it last year. More money-saving, we were told.

It won’t have escaped your attention that the route sounds like “The ‘arvey One.” I was devastated when it disappeared and suddenly realised how the Queen must have felt when they beached the Royal Yacht Britannia.

King’s Cross: below the surface of “world-beating” London

KING’S Cross. For some people it’s been the stepping stone to a new adventure, for others it’s been the end of the line.

With varying degrees of aspiration, desperation and trepidation, generations of Scots and northerners took the night train south to the once grimy terminus to chance their arm in London, or as they used to call it, The Smoke.

Some of them, like Tom Courtenay’s fictional anti-hero in the 1963 film Billy Liar, bottled it at the last minute, leaving the glamourous Liz – Julie Christie – to set off alone on her London adventure.

The area around the former Great Northern Railway terminus and the Gothic folly of St Pancras next door has maintained its air of transitoriness despite a major clean-up in the 1990s intended to eclipse its reputation for prostitution and drugs.

Before that, predators lurked in the gloom of the old station entrance to lure northern teenage runaways straight off the platform and into their nefarious enterprises.

Those were the days when no self-respecting London TV noir would fail to include at least one scene of a traditional King’s Cross kerb-crawler eyeing the pavements for talent along the dark walls that hid the railway tracks.

The old coal yards, gasholders and canalside warehouses to the north of the platforms are now the site of one of the largest 21st century regeneration projects in post-industrial, “world-beating” Britain.

The old pay-by-the-hour B&Bs and gloomy wino hangouts have been replaced by bijou artesan eateries. Incidentally, these have responded nobly to the lockdown by offering brown bag vegan takeaways and chilled Sauvignon at barely a score a head in order to keep the wolf from the door.

Over a couple of decades the British Library and the Guardian newspaper moved into the area and latterly the Francis Crick Institute life sciences hub, Europe’s biggest biomedical research centre, along with new museums and art galleries.

Google is in the process of building a £1 billion, 11-storey London HQ, its first such wholly-owned project outside the US, and one that was temporarily halted when one of its contractors went down with the coronavirus.

Arrivals these days seen hurrying out dragging their cabin bags are more likely to be weekend warriors commuting from Paris or Brussels as workseekers from Newcastle or adventure-seeking shopgirls from Stoke-on-Trent.

But, after dark, none of them linger long in the square. Despite the changes, King’s Cross has yet to quite shed its predatory feel.

Daytime is okay. Parents even bring their kids to see King Cross Station’s latest attraction, the Harry Potter Merchandise, Souvenirs and Collectables shop next to a sign for Platform 9 3/4 from which J.K. Rowling’s fictional child heroes headed off to school.

I used to pass for a while through just such a secret door at King’s Cross. I coudn’t find it this week so maybe, like the fictional platform entrance, it’s been bricked up.

It was the gateway to a subterranean world as weird in its way as Hogwarts. Like the Phantom in the Paris Opera, you descended in the gloom to a vast labyrinth of workshops and storerooms that never saw the light of day.

Like him, you almost expected to reach an underground river, which in the case of King’s Cross would surely be the long ago boxed-in River Fleet.

One vast area was run by a Czech emigré who bought cheap sports gear from the eastern bloc and sold it at such a hefty mark-up that half was allowed to rot in the network of vaulted tunnels and dead ends.

The permanent crew were a bunch of cricket-mad lads from St Lucia who liked to haughtily stress their superior status by refusing to speak anything but creole French, except to shout orders at the native temps.

They were the only ones who got to drive the second-hand electric milk floats needed to ferry supplies around their underground domain.

Their foreman was an older, book-loving man, also from the Caribbean, who was transitioning from Jesus to socialism.

Where are they now? Where are the storerooms for that matter? It’s all trendy shops now where the descent to the underworld began. Maybe there’s still a secret entrance for the initiated just like at Platform 9 3/4.

Perhaps that parallel, subterranean King’s Cross still exists, beyond the ken of the new inhabitants at Google or the Crick. So, should you find yourself in the area one dark night, don’t go wandering through any unmarked doors.

Lockdown eases: time to get back in the boat

DON’T tell everyone, but the Thames Clippers are back.

These nippy London catamarans were withdrawn from service at the beginning of the lockdown but went quietly back into operation at the start of the week.

They’re a godsend for the city’s urban amblers, easing the strain by extending the range of potential idle walks from the Royal Arsenal at the thick end of the river to Putney at the thin.

I opted for an early boat to Greenwich, an old stomping ground, in the company of just two fellow passengers who in any case jumped off at Canary Wharf.

At weekends when we were still in our teens, we would invariably head down to Greenwich and the Cutty Sark – the pub, silly, not the ship!

The Georgian building on Ballast Quay, beyond the old travelling crane jetty that juts out over the river, used to be called the Union Tavern. Then, it was the watering hole for foreign seamen, bargees and workers at the local wharves in an era when London was the world’s largest port.

It had a bit of a dodgy reputation in those days. Even our mate’s nautical dad, a former naval rating, merchant seaman and lighterman, said he always gave the place a wide berth.

By our time in the early ‘60s, when the pub had been renamed after the tea clipper put into permanent dry dock just west of the naval college, it was deemed safe.

But you still sometimes got a flavour of the old days. One evening a coaster from Holland moored at the river wall in front of the pub. The noisy crew jumped over, headed for the bar and proceeded to get happily plastered without ever losing a grip on their Dutch-accented cockney.

It’s maybe not the kind of Greenwich experience you can look forward to these days.

David Abulafia, historian of the oceans, was on the radio today, musing on the revolution that has happened to the world’s ports since the advent of containerisation.

With modern ports such as Felixstowe now more machine than human, he said, there’s no longer the wharfside jostle and swap of cultures you used get in places like riverside London.

Greenwich still gets its fair share of foreign tourists, although not so much in recent months, hence the near empty catamaran. They mostly come for the palace and the park, the naval museum and the observatory. Favourite is a selfy with one leg either side of the Greenwich meridian.

For us, Greenwich and Ballast Quay were where the rest of the world started: the Pool of London behind us and, ahead, Asia, South America, Africa, the Caribbean, or wherever else the ships we saw had come from.

Some nights we would leg it through the narrow foot tunnel to the Isle of Dogs and The Waterman’s Arms. The broadcaster Daniel Farson bought the place in 1962 with money left by his American war correspondent dad, Negley Farson.

Farson senior once took young Dan on assignment to Germany where he got his head patted by Hitler.

When he moved east, some of his Soho set followed. And glamourous young people from beyond the West End would turn up for a wild night of bopping and jiving in darkest Poplar. Dan tried to turn the place into an old-fashioned music hall, but the money ran out.

In a way, like Ballast Quay opposite, it was a place where, for us, the rest of the world started.

Monumental cock-ups: who gets to pick London’s statues?

THERE is no way I am going to get involved in the culture wars over the fate of the nation’s statuary. You will all have your own opinions about whether slave trader Edward Colston belongs on a pedestal or at the bottom of the Bristol Channel.

However, the current kerfuffle over which monuments should stay and which should go does raise one interesting question: who decides in the first place who gets a statue?

Such choices are often controversial and they are not made overnight. Churchill didn’t get his statue in Parliament Square until 28 years after Victory in Europe and Margaret Thatcher didn’t get one at all.

Westminster Council rejected a Thatcher monument on the grounds it was likely to be a magnet for protestors. The bronze was shuttled off to Grantham where, even in her provincial birthplace, police warned it could become “a target for politically-motivated vandals”.

The authorities appear to have had no such qualms in the case of Sir Simon Milton, the most memorialised man in London.

“Sir Simon Who?” I hear you cry. It’s certainly true that, as someone who merits not one but five memorials in the city, as well as a plaque and a square in Victoria named after him, he remains a relative unknown to most of us.

The tributes include a statue in the Sir Simon Milton Memorial Garden in Paddington, a bust in Piccadilly and, most recently, a larger-than-life seated figure near City Hall at the southwest corner of Tower Bridge (today’s picture).

It sits in the quadrangle of the new, unsightly luxury development that houses the Bridge Theatre. It was originally on the walkway outside, where it got in everyone’s away.

So who was Sir S and why such a monumental fuss?

Raised in north London, he was a Conservative councillor and subsequently leader of Westminster City Council until 2008. He had been director of a lobbying firm embroiled in Parliament’s cash-for-questions scandal.

When he was a simple councillor, a predecessor as leader, Lady Porter, did a runner after Westminster was accused of gerrymandering in a homes-for-votes scandal that involved selectively selling off council houses to those more likely to vote Conservative.

But Milton’s biggest claim to fame was that he served as Boris Johnson’s deputy and chief adviser when the current prime minister was mayor of London from 2008. He was the brains behind the bluster and Johnson returned the favour by unveiling his City Hall statue in 2016.

He was to Johnson then what the lockdown-dodging Dominic Cummings is today.

Milton died in 2011 at the sadly premature age of 49.

So why all the statues? The Tory website Guido Fawkes archly remarked that it surely had nothing to do with the fact that Milton’s longtime companion and civil partner, Robert Davis, had been in charge of planning at Westminster Council.

Davis, a former Lord Mayor of Westminster, stepped down as the council’s deputy leader in 2018 after he was found to have accepted hospitality and gifts on more than 500 occasions, most of it from property developers.

During his time as a planner, Davis removed five busts of the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and satirist William Hogarth during an ugly and mindless £15 million remake of Leicester Square.

At least there’s room now for a Boris bronze or even a discreet Cummings cartouche.

Transforming London: Elephants don’t forget

I’VE heard the Elephant and Castle called a lot of things over the years but, until now, international tourist destination had not been one of them.

But that was the verdict of a bunch of housing protestors who turned up there last week to complain about the number of flats in the neighbourhood let out through Airbnb and other short-term rental outfits.

With foreign tourists currently absent for the duration, many of the flats are emptier than usual and should be requisitioned for ordinary folk who need them, according to the campaigners.

The slightly edgy and traditionally working-class district has suffered over the years from the curse of “regeneration”, a weasel word that often serves as cover for making a profit by turfing out the locals. I’ve seen two such heralded rebirths of the Elephant in my lifetime.

It’s not so much a neighbourhood as a junction, with roads leading to Kennington, Walworth and the Borough, south to the Old Kent Road, west to Parliament and north to Blackfriars. In other words, pretty central.

In its pre-war heyday, It was nicknamed “the Piccadilly Circus of South London”, a bit of a stretch since the real thing is only three stops north on the tube.

Those were the days in which none but the most intrepid north Londoner would dream of crossing the Thames. Maybe they were scared off by the reputation of the Forty Elephants, an all-women crime syndicate of Cockney amazons who ran with the notorious Elephant and Castle gang.

I remember the old blitz-scarred Elephant from the days before its 1960s’ regeneration, with its elegant if smog-blackened stores, the back-street workshops and the mighty Trocadero, a massive 3,000-seat mock-Renaissance cinema, built in the days when such over-the-top venues were called picture palaces.

The art deco Coronet cinema opposite survived as a night club until 2018.

But the Troc went in the 60s’, along with most of the surrounding department stores and shops, to be replaced by two gigantic roundabouts and a covered shopping centre, Europe’s first mall.

The pub that gave the area its name made way for an anaemic modernist replacement.

Council flat construction continued into the 1970s and the area kept its working class flavour with the admixture of the Latino culture of the many Colombians, Peruvians and Ecuadorians who gravitated there from the 1980s, with some setting up shops, restaurants and night clubs.

Now, they and the rest of the community are threatened by the latest regeneration, which mainly consists of developers exploiting the area’s central position to build massive blocks of luxury flats.

Investors include the Qatari royal family, who seem to have taken a shine to Sarf London, having paid for the Shard just up the road.

A three-bed flat in the One The Elephant block will set you back only £1.2 million. And don’t worry if you’re a buy-to-let overseas investor – they do video-viewings.

There’s plenty of property available, particularly since the vast and uncared for 1970s Heygate council estate was bulldozed to make more room for upmarket blocks.

According to local campaigners, the Elephant is ground zero for the gentrification of London. But the high life remains very much up in the air. When the newcomers descend from their penthouses, they walk out into increasingly tatty streets.

For the Elephant is as much a victim of planning blight as of regeneration. The shopping centre was supposed to come down a decade ago but is still just about operating and looking increasingly forlorn.

Poor old cash-strapped Southwark Council now seem more in league with the developers than with the locals, gratefully accepting the promised crumb of “affordable housing” in exchange for planning permissions.

The developers have changed over the years as have their often shadowy investors. There’s really not much to show so far, apart from the luxury blocks, for a promised £3bn transformation.

Anyway, if you’re planning a trip to London when the virus settles down you could do worse than Airbnb it at the Elephant at £90 a night. You’ll be in easy reach of all the central London sights.

Just be careful on your way out. You still get the odd gang killing at a junction where the territories of rivals overlap and even the school kids can be pretty lively.

In one incident last year, two mobs of the little angels squared up to each other near the shopping mall. The police moved in, although there is no confirmation of reports they brought tasers to get the children home in time for bed.

Popping down to Peckham: Lovely Jubbly!

PECKHAM was recently named London’s coolest neighbourhood by the fun-things-to-do magazine Time Out. Some even talk of it as the Shoreditch of the South. Shoreditch!?

Strange how some of the most grimy bits of London have become the most sought after. I call it grungetrification.

Growing up as kids down the road in post-war New Cross with its tangle of railway tracks and smog-shrouded bombsites, our one consolation was that at least it wasn’t Peckham.

We always thought Peckham was a bit dodgy, long before the emergence of violent gangs such as the Peckham Boys from the 1970s.

The lighter side of the area’s shiftiness was immortalised in the TV comedy sitcom Only Fools and Horses that ran for a decade from 1981. David Jason’s character “Del Boy” Trotter runs his mainly harmless get-rich-quick scams from his council flat in Peckham.

Del Boy’s upbeat catch phrase “lovely jubbly” has since entered the vocabulary of every taxi driver and trinket-seller from Manila to Marrakesh who encounters British tourists.

There was an attempt to smarten the place up in the ‘90s, with the European Union helping to fund a swish new library. That’s when the artists and musicians and cool young professionals started moving in, swiftly followed by the cafés, wine bars and studios.

The area now has one of the most scenic rooftop bars in London on the top of a derelict multi-storey car park, a magnet for hip millennials.

Today the main shopping street, Rye Lane, was heaving. I didn’t spot too many likely web developers or graphic artists. Most of the shoppers were from the local African, Caribbean and minority communities who make up a majority of the population of central Peckham.

There was a huge Black Lives Matter poster on the side of the award-winning library. But most of the actual black people were on the street, with long queues at the money transfer shops and the greengrocers. A fiver a pop for a yam seemed a lot to me. But what do I know? Lockdown prices?

Peckham has earned a bad rep over the years for drug-related knife crime, a phenomenon routinely associated with young black kids in the minds of those who forget the white razor-gangs of an earlier generation who fought for turf across South London.

In one of Britain’s most high-profile killings, 10-year-old Nigerian-born Damilola Taylor bled to death in the stairwell of the North Peckham Estate in 2000. Two local youths were eventually found guilty of manslaughter.

None of the above should put you off. As a TripAdviser contributor wrote in response to a tourist’s inquiry about whether it was safe: “I live in Peckham and it’s absolutely fine, yes it used to be rough but now it’s a gentrified, hipster haven with tonnes of cafes, breweries and arty rooftop bars.”

Truth to tell, there hasn’t been too much bad action in Peckham since the 2011 riots, although I do question the wisdom of Time Out’s reference to it being “a mere stone’s throw away” from Camberwell.

Let’s hope it recovers from our present difficulties and that the cool trendsetters stay on. I’ve heard whispers that some new urbanites are planning a post-Covid return to the country – work from home, plant some veg, raise some goats (just for the milk, of course).

Whatever happens though, and for good or ill, there will always be a Peckham.

But you’ll be dying now to know more about New Cross. So here’s a link to ITLW’s very first column to give you the full monty.

Post-pandemic Britain: Going to the dogs

WHAT with this year’s Brexit Independence Day, coronavirus, and the post-pandemic prospect of the United Kingdom falling apart, everyone missed the half-centenary of a defining moment in British politics.

I’m referring of course – as Londoners may already have guessed, but maybe not – to the historic 1970 unilateral declaration of independence by the Isle of Dogs.

At a time when future Brexiteers such as the one-year-old Jacob Rees-Mogg were still having their nappies changed by nanny and were yet to dream of going it alone, the islanders rejected the rule of faceless bureaucrats in the Tower Hamlets Council and struck out on their own.

For the guidance of non-Londoners, the Isle of Dogs is at the southern end of the large, scrotum-shaped peninsula formed by a meander in the Thames a couple of miles east of the City.

The favourite theory of how it got its name is that Henry VIII kept his hounds there to avoid their yapping when he was staying at Greenwich Palace on the opposite bank.

Others have claimed it was a refuge for Edward III’s greyhounds. He had a hunting lodge over the river at Rotherhithe. Some say its a corruption of the Isle of Ducks, or the Isle of Dykes, say others.

The area was a sparsely populated foothold in isolated marshland until it was drained and planted in the 13th century. Not much changed for half a millennium until the construction of the East India and West India Docks early in the 19th century and Millwall Dock towards the end of it.

With the River Lea to the east and the Thames to the south, the addition of the docks restored the area to its island status, connected to its neighbours by just a couple of raising bridges.

It was these crossing-points that the rebels seized on March 1, 1970, cutting off the Isle of Dogs from the rest of the country, before declaring independence under the leadership of President Ted Johns, a local Labour councillor. He had two prime ministers, one a lighterman and the other a stevedore.

The insurgents claimed their municipal masters had “let the island go to the dogs”. A copy of the independence declaration was dispatched to Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Many of the island’s 10,000 residents flocked to the barricades, including women in hair curlers and kids on bikes. A Swedish cargo ship was among the vessels stranded.

The revolution had been sparked by the lack of amenities and services in the predominantly white working class enclave, which had been badly battered in the blitz.

Low-rent municipal housing had gone up post-war but there was a shortage of schools while poor transport links virtually cut the neighbourhood off from the rest of London.

Since the demise of the local Poplar Council in the municipal reforms of the 1960s, the Isle of Dogs had lost its sovereignty to Stepney and Bethnal Green to the north.

Sadly, Dogxit didn’t last long. Two weeks, in fact, by which time the President and First Lady had been interviewed by most of the world’s press.

A counter-revolutionary tendency had by that time set in and had started to whinge that dad couldn’t get to work and granny wasn’t getting her Meals-on-Wheels delivery. Maybe going it alone was not such a good idea after all. They were the Remoaners of their day.

Although independence was abandoned, President Johns had been right about most things. Within a few years, the docks and warehouses were abandoned to be replaced by the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and luxury flats along the waterways.

(I snapped today’s picture at the chi-chi bridge at Millwall Dock that the developers put in to replace the once-barricaded original.)

The locals got next to nothing. Many drifted firstly to the far right, which had stirred them up against displaced immigrants moving in from nearby Limehouse, and then to Essex where they were free to pursue their go-it-alone fantasies.

In retrospect, I think the islanders were on to something. With the prospect of post-Brexit Britain breaking up into its constituent parts, it might be time for UDI for London.

Together, our population is a thousand times that of the old Isle of Dogs and almost twice that of Scotland. If the Jocks can go it alone, why not us?

So, raise the bridges! Man the barricades! Put your curlers in! If the Isle of Dogs could do it, so can we!