THAMES (2019-21)

A critical walking history up the River Thames.

Prelude: Dark River
Erith to the Thames Barrier
Erith and Plumstead Marshes, Woolwich, Charlton

The journey opens in the bleak marshy Thames off the edge of London. Here there is sewage, rubbish and residual industry, a former military town, a terrible maritime disaster, and the present high-tech answer to the Thames's inhabitants' oldest problem of all.


 

Part One: The Metropole
Twice a day the tidal lower Thames flows back and forth through London. It is because of the river that the English capital city exists.
 
1) Tides of Time
The Thames Barrier to Tower Bridge
Greenwich Peninisula, Isle of Dogs, Greenwich, Deptford, Rotherhithe, Bermondsey
The river's winding course round three peninsulas which have transformed and transformed again with the rise, fall and undeath of English modernity.




2) The Great English Power Struggle
Tower Bridge to Putney
City of London, Southwark, Bankside, Lambeth, City of Westminster, Vauxhall, Wandsworth, Putney

The tides wash over the story of English democracy and expose the much darker saga of power conflicts underneath, from the vested interests of the City of London to the violent and oppressive rise of Parliament.


3) Arcadia
Putney to Kingston upon Thames
Barnes, Hammersmith, Mortlake, Chiswick, Kew, Brentford, Isleworth, Richmond, Twickenham, Teddington
At the margins of London, where the Thames swings south, the escapees of the city's leisured classes built an imaginary dreamscape of meadows, gardens and boats at play. But who is it for?





December 2019: The Conservative Party, now controlled by hardline English nationalists under Boris Johnson, comes to power in a dramatic General Election victory.


Part Two: The Privilege Forts
Historic bastions of power and prosperity line the Thames valley through some of England's wealthiest provinces.

A) Hubris (The Nationalists)

Kingston upon Thames to Chertsey
Kingston, Surbiton, Thames Ditton, Hampton Court, Molesey, Sunbury, Walton, Shepperton/Weybridge
Troubled entry into the leafy strongholds of the English conservative reverie as it casts the shadow of authoritarian nationalism over this land once again.





5) Cross Purposes
Chertsey to Staines
Chertsey, Laleham, Staines



The monastery, the bridges, and the two towns they built - one for going to, and the other for going through.




6) Curse of the Magna Carta
Staines to Windsor
Runnymede, Old Windsor, Datchet, Windsor




The nationalist siege of Windsor Castle and the legend of Magna Carta - but not as they know it. Come. Take the low road through the underworld and face the Runnymede Horror.



7) The Eaten
Windsor to Maidenhead
Eton, Boveney, Bray, Maidenhead

A study in English carnivory, from the paradox of Eton College and the public schools to the hollowing out of Maidenhead. There might be vampires and cannibals in the middle.




8) River Shamans
Maidenhead to Marlow
Cookham, Marlow

On a quintessentially English provincial corner of the river, glimpses of those who sought to bridge it to other worlds above and beyond.




9) Death in the Willows
Marlow to Henley-on-Thames
Bisham, Hurley, Medmenham, Remenham, Henley-on-Thames

Where the wind blows through the willows, where rowers and esoteric upper-class cultists repurpose Toad Halls and the ruins of mills and monasteries, the paradise of the Thames's high pastoral fantasy collides with the hell of its history of killer plagues. With the coming of COVID-19, Death stalks this land.



 
2020-21: Comprehensive failure of English response to the COVID-19 pandemic results in over 100,000 deaths, widespread suffering, and grievous cultural and economic damage.


B) Nemesis (The Plague)

10) Blood-Red Junction
Henley-on-Thames to Reading
Henley Meadows, Shiplake, Sonning, Reading
After a year's interruption we come at last to Reading. In the shadows of its abbey ruins and industrial-age relics, this is the town at the crossroads, built red in bricks and blood.






Part Three: The Interior


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