Map Of Greenwich

Road, Rail and River The London Commuters

The Daily Commuters of London Bridge Boris Johnson

Still they come, surging towards me across the bridge.

On they march in sun, wind rain, snow and sleet. Almost every morning I cycle past them in rank after heaving rank as they emerge from London Bridge station and tramp tramp tramp up and along the broad 239-metre pavement that leads over the river and towards their places of work…

Sometimes they are on the phone, or talking to their neighbours, or checking their texts. A few of them may glance at the scene, which is certainly worth a glance: on their left the glistening turrets of the City, on the right the white Norman keep, the guns of HMS Belfast and the mad castellations of Tower Bridge, and beneath them the powerful swirling eddies of the river that seems to be green or brown depending on the time of day. Mainly, however, they have their mouths set and eyes with that blank and inward look of people who have done the bus or the Tube or the overground train and are steeling themselves for the day ahead.

City Hall, on the South Bank close to Tower Bridge and east of HMS Belfast.

By the time I get to cycle home, most of the morning crowds have tramped the other way. Like some gigantic undersea coelenterate, London has completed its spectacularlyb daily act of respiration – sucking in millions of commuters from 7 am to 9 am, and then efficiently expelling them back to the suburbs and Home Counties from 5 pm to 7 pm. But the drift home is more staggered. There are pubs, clubs and bars to be visited and as I watch the crowds of drinkers on the pavements – knots of people dissolving and reforming in a slow minuet – I can see why the city beats the countryside hands down. It’s the sheer range of opportunity.

The metropolis is like a vast multinational reactor where Mr Quark and Miss Neutrino are moving the fastest and bumping into each other with the most exciting results. This is not just a question of romance and reproduction. It is about ideas. It is about the crosspollination that is more likely to take place with a whole superswarm of bees rather than a few isolated hives.

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With many thanks to Boris Johnson for his permission to quote these extracts from Johnson’s Life of London published by Harper Press in 2011 With that I saw two swans of goodly hue, Come softly swimming down along the Lee. So purely white they were,

That even the gentle stream, the which them bare Seemed foul to them, and bade his billows spare To wet their silken feathers, lest they might Soil their fair plumes with water not so fair And mar their beauties bright,

That shone as Heaven’s light, Against their bridal day, which was not long: Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song. from Prothalamion (1596) by Edmund Spenser (1552-99)

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