Beyond the Tower of London, between St. Katharine’s Docks and Shadwell New Basin, lies the area known as Wapping: a district of docks and warehouses, of crumbling tenements and rat-haunted alleys, of narrow streets where the only doors are at second-floor level, surmounted by crude projecting beams and ropes and pulleys. The blind brick walls at pavement level and the brutal-looking apparatus above give the place the air of some hideous dungeon from a nightmare, while the light, filtered and dulled by the grime in the air, seems to come from a long way off – as if through a high window set with bars.
Oh, dearie me! I lived in Wapping for four months, and apparently I should be glad that the year was 2004 rather than Sally Lockhart’s 1872! When I was there, it was the cutest place ever! I could, and did on almost a daily basis, walk to the Tower Bridge. I discovered a few favorite peaceful spots. And I made a point of exploring a new part of London every Wednesday — packing up my notebook and some food and finding a pretty place to write. I rode double decker buses as often as possible (not only are they big and red and scary if you’re sitting in the top front [all excellent qualities], but they’re cheaper than the Tube). London, in general, and Wapping, in particular, was (were?), in fact, one (two?) of my favorite places of all the places I’ve ever lived. (Are six commas too many for one sentence? Was that even a sentence?) Of course, I was dead broke by the time I left (London is expensive), but I don’t regret a minute of it.
Anyway. Philip Pullman: you have good brains. And Wapping: sorry to hear about your sordid past. You turned out pretty well, in my humble opinion.
(Speaking of such matters, Graceling has now been released in the U.K. I don’t know what this means about immediate availability in libraries and bookstores, but at the very least, it should be showing up soon!)
So — where have you lived? What was it like? And where do you dream of living?