Either make it up or you put in an elephant

When Mick Jagger has shuffled off his mortal coil, a blue plaque could be affixed to number 48 commemorating a drugs bust, led by the head of the Chelsea Drug Squad, the curiously named Detective Sergeant Robin Constable . . . . . . . . . .

Exclusively for Patrons, here is List 19: Run 303 the next ‘run’ from my travelogue Pootling around London: Manor House to Gibson Square, again I hope you find it both amusing and informative.

Thank You again for your support.

Chelsea Harbour Drive SW10 to Marsham Street SW1

Winter starts to lose its grip early in London. In St. James’s Park I’ve often seen banks of yellow and mauve crocuses reaching out for daylight in January, a welcome sight on the quiet and overcast days subsequent to the Christmas festivities.

Today, though, with a north-east wind, London’s artificial climate isn’t abrogating its severity, I can hardly hold a pen my fingers are so cold. I set out at dawn, hardly able to walk, wearing two pairs of socks; thermal long johns; thick trousers; two jumpers; two pairs of gloves; a balaclava, all under my motorcycle jacket, overtrousers and helmet, hoping against hope the call of nature doesn’t cry out too often.

I usually limit myself to four runs a day, one can only absorb so much information and wind chill at a time. When I reach home I’ll be ready for a hot bath before I start to revise what I’ve learnt today.

Leaving Chelsea Harbour Drive, home to Michael Caine, Richard Burton’s wife, Sally and Tom Stoppard, I turn into Lots Road, so named after the ‘lots’ of land that locals had the right to graze their stock. Forward on to Cheyne Walk, his time with the expensive properties on our left. Between them, these few dozen houses have 10 Blue Plaques displayed, mostly commemorating artists and authors. When Mick Jagger has shuffled off his mortal coil, another could be affixed to number 48 commemorating a drugs bust, led by the head of the Chelsea Drug Squad, the curiously named Detective Sergeant Robin Constable.

At least one of Mick’s neighbours has a sense of humour, for parked here are two cars an Aston Martin and a Range Rover, nothing unusual in this neck of the woods, except their number plates: 2B and NOT 2B. Their thespian owners just have to make sure they are parked the right way round.

In the Thames on our right is a dozen houseboats, their owners must rank as the most wealthy itinerants in London. The last time I looked a houseboat here was for sale at £495,000 plus mooring fees. Should you have a little more to splash out, moored a few yards down the river at Cadogan Pier, costing £27,000 just to sit idly there enjoying the view is a barge being offered for £2.25 million.

Continuing along, the massive Battersea Power Station on the opposite bank can’t be missed, it is the largest brick building in Europe, once supplying a fifth of London’s power. Alongside Broadcasting House and The Bank of England is was regarded as essential for the war effort. A turbine fire here necessitated the delay to the launch of BBC2; its operatives wore felt overshoes to protect the teak flooring; or, my favourite that Michael Heseltine gave Battersea heritage listing to just annoy Margaret Thatcher, said to loathe the building.

Turning into Lupus Street we run past the Churchill Gardens Estate, although it won awards when completed, I don’t think the great statesman would have been happy to have this generic 1950’s designed council estate given his nomenclature. One good idea was to heat residents’ properties using waste hot water from Battersea Power Station opposite. On the evening of 25th January 1983 at 6.21 Battersea Power Station was closed down, have all these people been waiting for British Gas to arrive since then?

Riding around the rear of the renamed Tate Britain, Marsham Street soon crosses our path. The obvious building here literally screams “over here, look at me!” The Home Office is a veritable kaleidoscope of colourful window shutters protruding out from the wall, beloved of television news teams when needing a backdrop to report another failure of this esteemed Government Agency.

No, the more interesting and by inference what might be asked of a Knowledge student is Shepherd’s Restaurant, which, bear with me on this one, was Green’s and before that Locket’s, which is a successor of the ordinary (an eating-house providing meals at a fixed price). From that, we get French Ordinary Court, a back-passage – and I’m trying hard not to make this a double entendre – near the Tower of London frequented by Samuel Pepys.

I doubt many of the boys from the political bubble, whilst dining after a hard day’s working in nearby Parliament is worrying about, as Samuel Johnson described in his dictionary as ‘a place of eating, established at a certain price’ as they enjoy their meal on expenses.

But I’m off home for a welcome cup of tea, with the curious thought: two-thirds of London’s drinking water comes from the Thames when a drop of rain falls into the Thames at its source in the Cotswolds will be drunk by at least eight people before it flows into the Thames Estuary.Trap Streets
The use of a map is pretty obvious to anyone already undertaking the Knowledge of London, but one addition or omission to what’s represented on your map might not be true, so the only way to find out is to get on your bike.

In fact, deliberate errors called trap streets are included, and according to the BBC programme Map Man, broadcast in October 2005, its presenter Nicholas Crane, was told by John Frankel the managing director of Geographers’ who produces The Knowledge bible – the A-Z – that London alone has about 100 trap streets.

Apparently, they are inserted to protect copyright. If a map is plagiarised the author can identify it as a copy of his own work. According to Peter Watts’ post in The Great Wen, he has managed to clarify this reasoning:

The map itself cannot have a copyright as it is a representation of fact . . . the trap streets and deliberate mistakes change the work from being purely factual into a creative expression and thus able to be protected by copyright.

The example Watts gives is a ‘ski slope’, for there is no evidence of there ever having been a ski slope located in Haggerston Park.

Cartographers are naturally reluctant to disclose other ’deliberate’ errors. Some are known: Gnat’s Hill for Gants Hill; Bartlett Place (incidentally the name of Kieran Bartlett, an employee at Geographers’) for Broadway Walk E14; Moat Lane off Clandon Gardens N3 which doesn’t exist; Wagon Road EN4 which changes its name to Waggon Road after crossing a railway line, but left on the map with the single g spelling.

Another device map makers use to protect their copyright is that they will misrepresent the nature of a street in a fashion that can still be used to detect copyright violators but is less likely to interfere with navigation. For instance, a map might add nonexistent bends to a street, or depict a major street as a narrow lane, without changing its location or its connections to other streets.

Mapmakers have long had a cavalier attitude when it comes to the truth. Jonathan Swift wrote a poem in 1733 – and I paraphrase:

If you’re a mapmaker and you don’t know what’s really out there you either make it up or you put in an elephant.

So, remember don’t trust the map in all things. The only way to find out is to get on your bike and discover London.

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