I’ve been seeing a lot of the East Midlands Parkway train station recently. The towers of Ratcliffe-On-Soar Power Station have become a welcoming sight, if you can say such a thing about a series of huge concrete tubes belching 10 million tonnes of CO2 every year (the 18th heaviest emitter in Europe). There’s something curiously relaxing about watching steam-shadows wind their way around each tower like hypercaffeinated ivy, something that brings out the watchful side of you, the way flames in a fireplace can… Continue Reading →
Tag Archives | london
London breathes on my back. Around me, shirts billow, dresses flare and hats are clutched, as the stuffy, tasteless air roars past us in search of somewhere to dump its heat. Behind me, the mournful screee of an Underground Tube train – and around me, a subterranean London that is far from solid.
Imagine laying a cross-section across the city, dividing it like a cake. Looking at the results, you’d think: earthworms. The ground under London is Swiss-cheesed with cavities. There are the most famous – the London Underground and its many, many abandoned stations, and the extraordinarily extensive sewer system pioneered by Joseph Bazalgette, the “Sewer King“, an engineering marvel now threatened from above. But around them, burrowed into the sponge of subterranean London, are countless other mysterious voids. The church catacombs, most notably at Camden. The military bunkers and citadels and their extensive tunnel networks. The pedestrianways winding between Heathrow’s terminals (above), hauntingly endless when you’re dragging your suitcase down them. And then there’s the Fleet, London’s lost river, gushing back and forth through the sewer tunnels as the tide waxes and wanes, a trickle of its former self but still powerful enough to drown the unwary.
And through all this, the dead air of London’s ancient breath…
Photo: Mike Sowden 2011.
- The real & fictional tunnels of London, at FictionalCities.
The mist-shrouded Arthurian ruins, the rolling green hills dotted with sleepy hamlets, nuns on bikes free-wheeling over cattle grids, tankards of warm beer, castles and orchards, jodhpurs and shooting-sticks, where monocles legally replace spectacles and more than two people will automatically form a queue, where everything is quaint and quintessential and steeped and…
On and on.
Planning a first-time trip to England soon? It’s possibly you’ve been told things about the place. Silly things. Things that will mislead and ultimately disillusion you. And that’s no fun at all. So in the interests of having an exciting and fascinating holiday in a truly exciting and fascinating country, let’s burst a few bubbles here. Continue Reading →
The first time I visited London I remembered it instantly.
There are places that you visit and it’s all new enough for you to get lost within minutes. (I may be projecting. Please see the subtitle of this blog). And there are the other places – so enormously on the beaten track and beloved by the popular media that you’ve been passively experiencing them third-hand since you could crawl. You know them, despite being a stranger.
I was lost in Paris until I saw the Eiffel Tower. Athens made no sense until I climbed Lykavitos Hill and saw where the Acropolis put everything else. It was only when I saw the Colosseum that I knew I was in Rome.
London’s like that at the moment. Lost, lost, lost, ah – landmark. I’m still getting my head round where everything is, weekend visit by weekend visit. Last time I was there with friends, we all went for a wander for my benefit. For me, London is still a jigsaw freshly tipped out the box. You have a few brightly colored pieces (the London Eye, the Globe, London Bridge, St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace) and the rest is just pieces of sky. You’ve no idea how anything fits together, and you have to go searching for a corner to get yourself started.
(Corners are easy).
Last time I was there, my corner was Chinatown. We wandered through it (“what? That’s it?”) and out into Leicester Square, up Coventry Street past the Trocadero before wending our way down to St James’s Park and its assorted wildfowl and eccentric birders, before emerging into the gut-punching sweep of the Mall and making our way to Liz’s house.
Now I know that bit. (Kinda. Don’t test me or anything). And next time I’ll fit something to the edge of it, and London will be mine just a little bit more. In the meantime, up here in York, I’m reading and rereading the London section of the Rough Guide to England.
Trying to spot my next corner of sky.
“Hello, Mike. Where have you been?”
Here’s exactly how I’m not going to tell you. Continue Reading →