Londoners look to 'make do and mend' mantra of wartime years
Facing its biggest recession in 60 years, London is harking back to its post-Blitz days when residents were suffering their coldest winter yet and there was still wartime rationing. The media doles out daily tips on how to beat the credit crunch. Time Out lists more free entertainment, men's magazines tell boy racers how to slow down and brake less to get better fuel economy, while women's magazines weigh up the prospect of getting a tenant to offset rising mortgages - yes, your rent is exempt if under GBP4,250 (HK$59,900) a year, which is well below the average London room rate.
There is a perfect economic storm: of city banks shedding staff, nursing their self-inflicted wounds; of lenders going missing and house prices dropping; and petrol and food costs rising.
But some sense an opportunity, not least the green lobby. The old wartime mantra of 'make do and mend' has come back in vogue.
Making food last is a dinner party subject, growing vegetables is more popular, sales of bikes are rising while car-sharing firms are du jour.
Companies anxious to show their green credentials have taken the newfound spirit on board, pledging to shift more goods on the forgotten waterways that splice London.
The 2012 Olympic committee started the freight rolling, pledging to end 1,000 truck trips a week with materials barged on the River Thames and the River Lea, which straddle the east London site.
The Thames is coveted again. Inland shippers report more inquiries in the past year than during the previous 20.
Examples included DHL, which was looking to shift mail from Heathrow by speedboat, The Independent newspaper said, and the main supermarkets, all anxious to lower their carbon footprint (and avoid the new London-wide low emission zone - costing up to GBP200 per day). Sainsbury's piloted the shipping of wine down the Thames last year.
Tesco is using the Manchester Ship Canal to transport 600,000 litres of wine and aims to do likewise in London.
Despite such pledges, the reality has been frustrated by lack of planning and imagination, say critics.
British Waterways is biased towards 'heritage and leisure' not freight, they claim.
In its defence, British Waterways points to the new Prescott Locks on the Lea, the hub for 2012 river traffic; although critics claim the Olympic site's rubble was taken by road before the depot was functioning.
The biggest obstacle, perhaps, is deep-rooted and structural.
The housing and building boom of the past 15 years has seen most of London's wharves - the canal and river distribution hubs - turned into luxury lofts or offices.
After all, Canary Wharf was once a pantheon to shipping not finance.
Walk a few miles along most central London's towpaths and you will struggle to spot a working warehouse.
Still, city banker Andy White is one man putting his money where his mouth is.
Each working day he swaps a pinstripe suit for a wetsuit and paddles his surfboard 10km to work. Sadly, it doesn't save any truck trips.