London: a Tardis in Reverse

It’s only with hindsight that I realise what a ‘playground‘ London was for me from the mid-eighties (when becoming old enough to do as I pleased) to the late nineties; when changes started running so deep they were impossible to miss and/or ignore.

Looking back it’s baffling to think how much the place altered in little more than a mere decade.

I left in 1999; things have only become worse since. How older generations reconcile with it is beyond me. Especially those still living there.

It’s quite the paradox; the bigger London gets, the smaller it becomes. It’s more than a feeling; having to sit in tons of traffic that once wasn’t there is real – I can think of more than one once frequently visited place I stopped going to for no other reason.

Though often there’s no choice—like when going to work—so one has to suffer the loss of time leaving less to do other things.

I remember the place
With so much space
To race
Just for fun
From one side
To the other
Catch a band here
Couple of pints there
Straight forward hand
Over cash for the tube
Nothing to lose
Everything won

I remember the place
With so much space
To race
Don’t get me started
About Christmas day
Not another soul
To get in the way
Way back when
All the building
Appeared to make sense
Thanks to the war
Putting back up
That bombed down
The bright future
Our brave had all died for

I remember the place
With so much space
To race
Just for fun
From Shepherd’s Bush
To the Old Kent Road
East Ham
Rarely Barnet or Neasden though
Landmarks here, there
Too commonplace
To appreciate
When native
In the midst of it all

I remember the place
With so much space
To race
Just for fun
About those new buildings
Mentioned above
We understood
What they said
That thing about bombs
But when it got to Docklands
Then it started
Going all wrong

I remember the place
With so much space
To race
Just for fun
Until a Good Friday long
Criminals called businessmen
Without remorse
Drawing Straws
Carving out slices
Of that by then
Lacking purpose
Beyond dark and lonely
Streets ghostly

I know, I know
Despite what was said
Too late
Malcontent with what had
Been spent –

toil, sweat.


Not currencies the greedy


Never mind love
Tearing it down
Just to make taller
Maximise dwelling
In the place
Once with the space
To race easy

Wind in the hair
Not a sweet care
Though we did
We did
And they weren’t even more
Except on the money score
Where it really counts
Where there’s none to be found
When free to park all around
No congestion or meter charges
Ten score galore

Cared and still do
To no avail true
The new war’s been lost
All a matter of cost
And margins
And cheap material
Rotten to the core
That happily burns
In the name of building
Some more and then more

As the place now is
A claustrophobic sin
Those who use money
To wipe the dust of demolition
The sands of our time
From their hands
Absolving their role
In my home city’s
Demise and downfall

Places to recently appear in my Twitter feed as already for the chop or on the verge of:


The Water Poet pub; who on Earth would want to destroy a place like that? (image courtesy of duncan c)


The Whitechapel Bell Foundry where both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were forged. (image courtesy of Can Pac Swire)


Dancing around the Mulberry bush: nurses in the grounds of the London Chest Hospital, Bethnal Green, 1944. (Image courtesy of Royal London Hospital Archives)

The poem was written last Sunday; seven days ago. By the time the post was ready to go—and considering the clocks have already gone forward here–it was too late to post for a UK audience, so it got put on hold for a week.

In that week another story came to my attention that couldn’t hit the nail on the head anymore if it tried.

The tree pictured is thought to be 400 years old and the oldest in the East End. During the War adjacent buildings were destroyed by bombing while it survived; though not without suffering damage it still bears today – a today that sees property developers on the verge of destroying this incredible symbol for nothing more than their own profitable ends.

  • To read more about the Bethnal Green Mulberry click here.
  • For the fundraiser to save it click here.

With special thanks to the Gentle Author for so frequently and passionately tweeting about the plights of these landmark buildings and others.

Other posts about London:

Series taking place in London:

Next in vs. Poetry: Summer Lovin’ (call me a cab)
Last in vs. Poetry: What a Waste

Thanks for reading 🙂

N. P. Ryan.


6 thoughts on “London: a Tardis in Reverse

  1. I started mooching about town on a Red Rover train/bus ticket in ’74. By ’76 I was working Saturdays in Regent St and swanning around Soho and the West End during lunch and after work.

    The changes are horribly real, the sense of loss is terrible and the anger and level of loathing for those responsible is profound.

    On a happier note: I was a chauffeur for many years and once spent a happy and informative day in the company of Ian Dury, a couple of years before his death. Lovely fella!

    Also: I did a stint at a small Pest Control Co. My cards had me labelled as The Ratcatcher’s Apprentice. We should compare horror stories over a beer sometime. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Superb work!


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