Late last night I hired a Boris bike from our lodgings on Long Lane, Borough, and pedalled through the drizzly neon streets, passing St George the Martyr, curving along Marshalsea Street, onto Southwark Street, its course paralleling that of the Thames, on my right the site of the monstrosity which was St Christopher House where my civil service career began – another area now given over to the sleek identikit of coffee chain outlets. Crossing Blackfriars Bridge Road, westbound on Stamford Street Waterloo station’s pleasure accretions heave into view – the big wheel, the National Theatre, the giant cinema in the middle of the roundabout. That vortex propelled me onto Waterloo Bridge, which now, pace Wordsworth, affords the best panorama of the quixotic metropolis of culture, politics, finance and intemperance. Aldwych by 11pm is already turning in for the night. I joined my group of chums in a bar off Covent Garden whose convivial atmosphere borne of martini cocktails, bottled lager, oversize glasses of white wine and disco music is snuffed out with brutal suddenness on the stroke of 1am: lights on, stereo off, bouncers circulating menacingly. Nowhere else in the world delivers such a blunt ‘fuck off’ as the urban British watering hole after last orders.
Around 3am I retraced my route to the Borough. As a child in the suburbs London, its place names and paraphernalia were an enigma, but now I can plot a decade of my life by its pubs, theatres and thoroughfares. There is nothing left to say about the city which hasn’t already been said, but have inscribed it with my memories, unique and indelible.