Mobile phones, EY, and pop-up Mexican restaurants were years away. St Katharine Dock formed the outer boundary of anyone's idea of central London except for those who actually lived east, just as now no-one ever dares go south of the Oval unless they live that way. Wapping was a nowhere, yet to be Murdoched; Shadwell a hinterland of deck estates no outsider would ever feel comfortable in (this remains true). No airport, no Canary Wharf, no DLR and definitely no pleasingly pointless cable car. And no blocks of executive apartments with matching balconies, which are now piled up from Limehouse to Lewisham, clinging to any hint of frontage, facing away from the old, pretending the past is indeed a different country.
Eliot called London “Unreal City” and here's a new version. It made for a strange experience, and a disorientating one - by the time you've gone round the Isle of Dogs, crossed to Greenwich and caught the cable car, you'd swear Canary Wharf is south and the Dome north. Some of it is very pleasant (Limehouse Basin for example) but most of it is not so much soulless as lifeless. We walked for miles and it was only when we walked through the old Millwall council estates (sorry, when we ran through the old Millwall council estates), that we actually spotted any sign of what I recognise as London life at all.
When Anne worked at St Katharine Dock I was on the dole and her colleagues used to refer to me as Trotsky. Well, they sure won and Trotsky sure lost but it sometimes seems a very strange kind of victory.