As a departure from CabbieBlog’s usual cyber-diatribe, today’s post is a book review.
As a self-confessed Londonophile I bought Walk the Lines out of curiosity after hearing the author Mark Mason interviewed by Roberts Elms on BBC Radio London.
There are plenty of books published with facts about London (I should know my bookcase is full of them) and while accurate they are often as dull as ditch water. Then along comes a book with a simple premise – to walk across London relating facts, anecdotes and meeting people.
[T]his has been done before, but what Mark Mason’s genius twist on the old formula is that he follows the tube network on foot above ground all 403 miles of it. With the obsessive zeal of a man on a mission he begins his odyssey with:
“Sod it – who wants to be normal? The right foot moves forward, and I’m off”.
He knows the male trait of completing any project undertaken and he’s now committed.
The book is crammed with something every blogger should aspire to: personal reflections; observations of the human psyche; talking to people who have shaped the city; and with self deprecation he goes in quest for facts – hundreds of them. Did you know, for instance, that part of Harrow Road was planned on the New York grid: First Avenue, Second Avenue and so on with alphabetical streets intersecting the Avenues?
Now I have to admit that Mrs CabbieBlog was a little sniffy about a man wanting to walk the Tube network, commenting that in her opinion a Travel Card would have been a better and more productive alternative.
But Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines takes you on a whole new experience of London as he reflects after completing his first walk – the Victoria Line:
“London has shown me things today that it was only revealed because I was on foot: how its neighbourhoods fit together, how some of them are less depressing than I’d imagined, where the whole thing ends. The Victoria Line has opened up in a way that it never did when I took the Victoria Line”.
But above all Walk the Lines is a love letter to a complicated and unruly friend with plaudits and condemnation, a book to reinforce Londoner’s notion that they live in the greatest city on earth – bar none.