Almost immediately I realised this was not London anymore.
Max and I were on a towpath. Narrow-boats lined the canal, bedecked with pot plants and armchairs. Smoke puffed from their tiny chimneys. A man sawed through a stack of wood. Geese bobbed on the water among Coke bottles and foam.
Set in a long red brick wall were some iron gates. I entered and found myself on the ruins of a Victorian water filtration plant. Concrete pathways rose from circular beds. Service ladders disappeared into pools of rushes. Fragments of machinery jutted from the ramparts. I ran my hands over defunct cogs and the skeletons of pulley systems. In the centre of it all, a stone circle like a sundial where I spun slowly, amazed.
In one of the filter beds giant ceramic fish heads and tails rose from the rushes. A weir rammed with nappies, cans and footballs gushed water into a river.
Cormorants perched on rocks, preening themselves like creatures freshly dragged from an oil slick. A parakeet darted from a tree. Max sniffed at the remains of a sandwich. The air smelled of rotten leaves and bus fumes.
I wondered how such a place could exist on my doorstep. It didn’t even feel like a place, but a space in between. A giant crack in the city where the detritus of London collected.
And then I saw her. Lurching from the scrub like a catwalk model, crackling with power and energy. My head told me it was just another electricity pylon but it was– she was– different. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
That’s how it began. The affair. If that’s what you want to call it.
This is an extract from my short story ‘A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes’, which has just been published in a new anthology called ‘Acquired for Development By…’
Struggling with fatherhood and an addiction to dog cataract medicine, the protagonist begins a doomed love affair with an electricity pylon on Hackney Marshes.
If you’d like to read the story, grab yourself a copy of the anthology while stocks last: Acquired for Development By…
“Reaches the parts of Hackney that Iain Sinclair doesn’t reach.” - Stewart Home
The anthology is well worth a read for anyone interested in urbanism, psychogeography, alternative history, the London Olympic story and gentrification. Featured authors include Lee Rourke, Molly Naylor, Siddatha Bose and Gavin James Bower.
One of the editors, Gary Budden, interviewed me about my story, collective consciousness, the eroticism of pylons and hauntology, amongst other topics. You can read the interview here: Influx Press Interview
Gary has also written a thought-provoking piece about the book’s psychogeographic context for the Hackney Citizen which you can read here: Redeveloped Memories
Not to be outdone, Gary’s co-editor, Kit Caless, has written a piece for the Huffington Post about how the book examines issues of gentrification in London’s East End. You can read it here: Huffington Post
Finally, you can watch a film trailer for the book below, which features a panoramic shot of my bad hair: