National Geographic : 1991 Jul
in common, instead of what separates us." It would be easy, wandering through her cheerful, immaculate school, to imagine that there is no conflict in the world. But it is her ambition to prepare the children for it. "I think some of the wealthier children do learn something here," she says thoughtfully. "Our Bangladeshi families can teach you a lot in terms of not being materialistic. I hope we give our students a sense that they are all special, and that they all have something to offer." That would make a very satisfying ending to this story. But the ending is still very much in doubt. What Ken Bennett called "the fragile Docklands bubble" will be kept aloft only by success on many fronts over along period. And the boom times of the eighties have-in classic Docklands fashion-presaged a slump. Mort gage and interest rates are high, and the hectic building programs have resulted in a glutted market, which has gone dangerously soft. Investors are pulling back. The London Arena, a 26-million-pound sports and concert hall, is faltering. The four year-old London City Airport, billed as the new savior of the Royal Docks area (and gleaming gateway to and from important European capitals), is only now showing signs of life. The moguls of Canary Wharf even held a rare press conference to express their confi dence in the project and have had to entice some tenants with very sweet deals. Ken Bennett, for one, refuses to be discour aged. "There's a hell of a lot wrong with the place, but you've got to stick with it," he says forcefully over his evening pint at the Ferry House. "People have lost money, but that was greed. My heart does not bleed for people who can't pay three mortgages. "We're a nation of people who knock suc cess, but there is a great future here. We have to believe that. If you don't have faith in it, you're kicking yourself to death. It's going to have a hell of a shakedown here, but it's all going to come good in the end." Now, that's the old Docklands spirit, I thought-Bennett's already half cockney himself. And 19-year-old Steven Devereux is plainly looking forward to his future. "It's our age now," he says. "Everyone can do it if they try. People are just being negative; there's opportunity here, if they want it." "Oh, it'll probably end up like everything else we do," a friend airily told me. "We'll get it half right." A white van whizzed through clouds of construction dust: "B. Patient, Ltd., Ceramic Tiling." That's not easy. In the meantime, the philosophy of the old days will do very well for the new: "You just took a chance," says old George Meacher, "and hoped for the best." 0 With a touch ofsass, Julie Evans celebrates her sister's wedding on the Isle ofDogs. Three of the bride's attendants sported tattoos. Savvy and fun loving, East Enders have al ways found a way to stand adversity on its ear. Like theirforebears who launched an empire from these docks, the natives view the new Docklands with a hopeful yet skeptical eye.