Limehouse, History & Time
Circumambulate the basin and Limehouse rumbles with history. The docklands light railway hauling cargo of centuries stacked twice behind you rolls clattering by and before you turn it’s a commuter train connecting the old with the new. The wharflands, the docklands, the buildings like red sails wide (barges drift with the changing tide) and the laughter of progress are all what you notice in your first passing stroll. The lingering aroma of a thousand Chinese restaurants you’ll never eat at because they’re no longer there, the turbofan drone of all the flights out of London City Airport you can catch, or may not ever catch, or may not want to catch, or may desperately want to catch, hurl sonic laps up glass edifice and down through masoned years of historic brickwork.
The mortar that glues these bricks is one jagged grid which, by subtraction, tell of all the things about this place to which you’ll truly add an ounce—but not in the deign sense of that realisation—but instead the staggering quantifications one’s thoughts undergo when reviewing one’s potential and deciding proactively to become a part of something.
In that sense, Limehouse is about being history in the making. It’s about the additive qualities of brick upon brick, of memory upon memory; to live in Limehouse is to pick up a lathe and begin smoothing room for the hard stuff of your life to lay down—forever.
Water is constant in its movements; history is constant in its patterns. True, the same lapping tapdance of Thames upon barge-hull and dockside are just as much outside of time as they are lapping and tapping against the moored hull of an elegant yacht; but that’s just the basin.
Limehouse away from the Thames is as much gaslit and coal smoke as it now is WiFi signals and the sound of bike wheels on the cycle superhighway. And running up Cable Street—louder than any charge of bootheels—is the very feeling that in living in Limehouse you are central and the City is coming to you.
Very recently the London Marathon ran its course through Limehouse; laid down its bricks upon those old bricks near the water. Kids held flags and cheered as the jogging pace-cars flashed through the cobbled streets bearing The Official Time. As the athletes poured past one felt they had a sense of time, a sense of time advancing, a sense that Limehouse is where the race of London—that grant winding marathon of the Thames—will be rounding its next bend. And one also felt, in the crowd, a sense of halcyon awe achieved simply by craning one’s head to peer at the enthusiastic faces shouting from the windows; the kids with the flags, the footfalls of lightweight sneakers, lookers-on cheering, food and music heavy on the air.
The afternoons are fat with clouds. The river wheels by forever the same. The glasswork and warehouses and furnaces and the Churchillian gantry cranes arch curiously like the necks of seabirds from their pages as the Thames walk is peopled with joggers and kids on scooters. The air feels particularly smooth here, and clean as a stethoscope. The beat of progress peels the old from the grey as on both sides of this neighbourhood with a basin, the city reaches skyward—two ecstatic fists clutching jewels—and Limehouse stays beautifully, perfectly, the same.