Flotsam and jetsam. Photo & text: David Secombe. (1/5)

Isle of Dogs, 1988. Photo © David Secombe.

From  Without the City Wall, Hector Bolitho and Derek Peel, 1952:

No part of London endured more bombing during the Second World War than the Isle of Dogs. Anyone who has flown over the Thames at night will recall how the river makes a splendid curve here, and how the moonlight shining on the slow oily waters turns the peninsula into a perfect target. The German bombers came to know it well, and the dock and warehouses suffered night after night. The rebuilding has covered many of the scars, but also many of the old romantic streets …”

David Secombe writes:

The photo above – taken for a magazine assignment to illustrate the growth of London’s Docklands – gives a small indication of the speculative building frenzy which characterised the mid-1980s. The building on the right in the photo above, newly constructed when this picture was taken, is Cascades, designed by Piers Gough for CZWG architects. Cascades was the first private apartment block to be built on the Isle of Dogs – a trailblazer for all the other developments of ‘executive homes’ (marginalising the ‘indigenous’ population, naturally) which – despite the occasional market wobble – have followed in its wake. Elsewhere on the Isle of Dogs at the time of this image, the massive foundations of Olympia and York’s Canary Wharf were being laid; gradually, the ethereal, silver profile of 1 Canada Square (the “tallest habitable building in Britain” according to Wikipedia) rose into the sky, elegantly dominating the landscape for miles around – until it was crowded by a cluster of far more vulgar towers belonging to big, bad corporations like Barclays and HSBC. If anyone wants to look for physical manifestations of the arrogance of capitalism, the Isle of Dogs has to be London’s most conspicuous example.

… for The London Column.


Dmitri Kasterine. Text: Andrew Martin. (2/5)

Man with cigar, Putney, 1967. © Dmitri Kasterine.

Andrew Martin writes:

This chap is, to my jaundiced mind, committing the error of smoking outside at a time in history when he could have been smoking inside, so he seems to me complacent, lacking in foresight. I think it was Freud, who said that oral satisfaction of smoking comes from blowing a concentrated stream of smoke, and you can’t do that out of doors, as I know because I am forced to smoke most of my half dozen weekly cigars out of doors, ideally on a fine day in Green Park, where the price of the deckchair adds £1.50 to the cost of my cheap (‘inexpensive’, my tobacconist calls them) Honduran cigars.

My tobacconist is James J. Fox in St James’s Street, one of – I think – half a dozen left in central London, where twenty years ago there were forty. I once asked the man who serves me at Fox when the shop was founded, ‘1730,’ he said, with great trenchancy, but the shop was called Carlin in those days, and sold mainly snuff. It was called Robert Lewis from 1787 to 1991, when Fox moved there from Burlington Arcade. ‘Did you ever supply Churchill?’ I asked my man. ‘Sole supplier, sir, sole supplier.’

To think that in Churchill’s London you could smoke cigars in pubs, restaurants, on Tube trains, in Tube stations. When the subterranean Cabinet War Rooms were being fixed up early in the War, Churchill repaired to the safety of the disused Down Street Tube station, which had been taken over by the Railway Executive. He smoked cigars there, and it was said the fumes from them – and from his rich food and brandy – floated along the tunnel to the shelterers at Green Park station, and tormented them.

The only place I now smoke an indoor cigar in London, is in the upper room at Fox, where it is allowed providing you are sampling one to buy a larger amount, or providing you say that’s what you say you’re doing.  I listen to a lot of plutocrats in there, as they drink coffee and smoke fifty quid double coronas. (Double coronaries, more like). The other day, one of the millionaires was Australian, and he was saying you can’t smoke outdoors in many places in his country. So I shouldn’t moan really.

… for The London Column. Andrew Martin’s book, Underground, Overground – A Passenger’s History of the Tube is published by Profile Books in May 2012.