Michael McCarthy: The grass is greener on the other side

Nature Notebook: Great Nature is still visible in view of the heartless towers if you look hard enough


Glancing out of the newsroom window at the noble London plane trees fronting the Victorian Gothic of St Mary Abbots church, topped by the tallest spire in London, I tried hard to think of something favourable to say about Canary Wharf. I failed.

The Independent has finally moved. After nearly 15 years living among the steel-and-glass towers of Docklands we have shifted, from east to west, to the heart of Kensington on the other side of London, and all I can think of is, good riddance. I feel there are many reasons to detest Canary Wharf, most prominent among them being the fact that this flashy overgrown business park symbolised supremely the rip-off culture of financial services, that ideology of egregious greed which produced the banking crisis and the mess we are all in now. Look at the tall glittering towers and they seem the embodiment of the heartless; and as I wrote here in January, it is a district which is lifeless, too, a place where the bits of greenery that are allowed are entirely cosmetic and controlled, with never so much as a weed or an insect in view.

But as I also wrote in January, that's not quite the whole truth. Canary Wharf sits on the Isle of Dogs, that tonsil-shaped peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Thames, and where you have a river, you also have wildlife, willy-nilly. Back then I learned that my colleague Sean Huggins, sub-editor, local resident and talented birdwatcher, was compiling a list of all the birds he could see on "the island", as they say down there, and in the first two weeks of January had reached the remarkable total of 45 species, including such surprising occurrences as sparrowhawk, great spotted woodpecker and woodcock.

Sean has now left the paper, but on Sunday evening, thinking Canary Wharf thoughts, curiosity got the better of me and I rang him up – he was on a birding holiday in Norfolk – and asked what the figure was now. It was 67 species, he said, including merlin, our tiny, exquisite falcon, and ring ouzel, our blackbird of the mountains. Amazing. So down there, in view of the heartless towers, Great Nature is still visible if you look hard enough. It's a consolation. But not much of a one.

Kensington gets a bum deal

Looking at St Mary Abbots, I suddenly remembered that once, in the back streets behind the church, I had spotted a party of long-tailed tits (which used to be called bumbarrels) flitting about in a nearby tree. Not surprising, as two major parks are close by: Kensington Gardens and Holland Park. Others may see Kensington as the epitome of the elegant or the stylish; permit me to view it henceforth as the home of the bumbarrel.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam