Friday 21 April 2017

#190 Seven Wonders of The Isle of Dogs

I've been living in E14 for a year now and decided to honour that with a short story about some of its features.

As I was walking along the quayside, I met a man of a local sort. A tatty rugged beard had he, which interfered with the frayed edge of his ageing duffel coat. To say I met him was to put it liberally, for it was he who approached me, as I sat staring off the quay, out over the river. 

“It’s a strange place, this… island” he began as I glanced leftwards at his crooked grin. “At first sight, remarkable only for its exceptional normality. Some towers. The river. Six Tesco stores”. “Six?!” I asked him, cynically. “Aye, they built six here” he continued. “Presumably some kind of tourist trap, funded by foreign nations, it is. If a sightseer is ever foolish enough to wander this far from the west end, their country doesn’t want them back! They become disoriented, ever trudging from one Tesco to the next, trying hopelessly to work out where the hell they are”. I chuckled, half-heartedly at his imagination. The old man continued with his story. 

“Six Tescos. That’s all they see. The outsiders. They never get to know the island’s treasures. One or two, perhaps but not all seven”. “Seven?! I asked him, astonished. “Invariably, yes” he told me, nodding solemnly. “Every world has its seven wonders”. I waited impatiently for the results of this curious list to which he had obviously been leading up. 

“What then, are the seven wonders of the Isle of Dogs?” I asked him “Where are they hiding?” “I cannot say” the man explained “for each person’s treasures are different but if you’ll permit me, I may share with you my take on the matter”. I could tell my attention was being toyed with but could do no more than wait for him to carry on. The man clocked this and revelled in it. Reaching into his coat, he producing a long brown pipe, which he lit in no hurry. I didn’t mind the tobacco smoke. 

“Where was I?” the man enquired, teasingly. “The seven wonders…” I prompted, on cue. “Ah yes” he said, smirking at his newfound popularity. “Well now, the first is The Llamas of Mudchute” “Llamas can’t be a wonder!” I blurted, “that’s ridiculous”. I immediately regretted the outburst but the man didn’t react to it. “The Llamas of Mudchute” he repeated, definitively. “Ok what’s next?” I asked him. “The tunnel to Greenwich” he said, proudly. I had to admit, it was a respectable feat of engineering. “Third” he continued “is The Rooftop Gardens of Crossrail Place” again, I didn’t argue. I’d visited the gardens myself and had been most impressed. “The fourth wonder” said the man, having got into his rhythm “is The varied architecture at Harbour Quay” “Hardly a marketable name” I pointed out. “That’s not my problem” the man said. “Great architecture speaks for itself”.

I couldn’t comment on my new friend’s intellect but he had a wit about him that suggested it surpassed his attire by several orders of magnitude, although that was no feat. Like the island itself, there might have been a tad more to him than met the eye. “Fifth” he carried on “The doughballs at Papa John’s” At this I almost fell over with mirth and frustration combined. “Doughballs?” I asked him, in the tone of a parent. The man had possessed the upper hand in the conversation until that point but seeing the look on my face, he knew for certain that he had to do better. “Sixth” he continued, hastily “is The Fountain at Cabot Square”. That was more like it. I had spent a moment now and then sitting at the fountain’s side, particularly at night when the jets were lit up like shimmering icicles against the blackness of the sky. “Seventh” he announced “is The Cranes at North Dock”. Ah, the cranes. Stonking great sculptures of metal, which loomed up out of the concrete, the relics of a time long past. 

I thanked the man warmly and made my way off. I was nothing but surprised to be rid of him so easily. Folk as odd as that chap generally had a tendency to linger but he trotted off in the opposite direction just as efficiently as he had arrived. I decided to share the man’s list with my housemates, in case they felt like reading it. Who knows? Maybe they’d have their own wonders.


Running on empty said...

So, what's your list of wonders of the isle?

Profound Familiarity said...

This is my list. The story about the old man is fiction.

PeopleSuck said...

I LOVE this Dan. You are such a talented writer.

Running on empty said...

I agree with that.

Profound Familiarity said...

I love YOU PeopleSuck and it's so true. People do suck.

Running on empty said...

Most people have good and bad in them. Only a couple of people I've met in all my life were all bad.