Old Nichol Street 1997

        Summer fucked posters of Bangla movie stars and Militant Labour’s Call to Arms. Road rage dust. A city on heat.

        A makeshift wall of corrugated steel and old door frames – easy enough to get through - and from there it’s a good nine feet down, foot held on fly-tipped buddelia, foot loose on splintered ply and shattered glass. Nine feet down into a fetid interior of split refuse sacks and a moss soaked mattress.
        The place is a bombsite. Literally. A tooth-gap in street, courtesy of the Luftwaffe. A hollow between the Victorian workshops and stained brick tenements. Just the remains of a basement down there - or so I’d heard... either way I was going to have a look.

        Once,the whole area had been London’s most notorious slum; a rookery of thieves and prostitutes which even the police didn’t care to enter. I’d convinced myself that you could still sense it in some of the faces on Brick lane, see its spectre drift through the wrecked buildings along Cheshire Street and amongst the burnt out cars alongside the disused railway depots. And now I'd got a chance to dig my hands into the very clay that once supported its gin soaked hovels, to scrape around its squalid heart.
        So down I go.

        Sweat. Stench. Time for a fag.

        Directly opposite, beneath a tracery of fireplaces, is a single piece of graffiti. In household blue, sun scorched and cracked, are the words boy and boy, separated by a slim heart.

        Football and laughter from a nearby playground echo above me. Someone’s shouting something about supper. I can feel the sun on my muddied hands, on my face.

        I just stand there for a while, quite still, held by the blue, and then leave. I’d seen and felt all I needed to down here.