Monday, October 4, 2010
As you well know, each semester we choose a Book of the Term. This term the book is Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin. It is set is Edinburgh in the early 1990’s and deals with violence and the IRA, as the books we choose are meant to introduce the students to different aspects of British culture. Now we are thinking of the book of the next term, and Sarah and I are leaning toward Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Whereas we live in London Above, much of this book is set in London Below. What is London Below, you ask? I’m about halfway through the book and I don’t really know myself.
Speaking of the things that happen below London, the London Underground is one of the oldest continuously running subway systems in the world. It has a fascinating history from acting as a shelter for Londoners during the Blitz to surprising pedestrians as they pass by disused stations on the street that have been closed for decades. Because they are often not lit up at all, they can be easy to miss. Who has seen Aldwych Station on the Strand right in the middle of London? It’s staring you in the face just after you pass Somerset House. Keep an eye out for this one. Your first mission this week is to find a disused Tube Station, but not Aldwych, since I have just pointed that one out. Here is a link to a great website that has images of out of date Tube maps to help you along with this one: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clivebillson/tube/tube.html. Don’t be deceived by stations that are still there but have changed names. Have a look at the outside of Gloucester Road Tube station the next time you pass by and notice that the top of the building says that the Metropolitan and District Railways go to this station. A lot has changed since this station appeared on one of the earliest Tube maps (1889) as Brompton Gloucester Road Station. Also, excitingly, there were plans on the 1949 version of the map to extend the Bakerloo line down as far as Camberwell! Alas, this would only have added to the paradise that Camberwell is!
Also, if you go to the northbound Piccadilly line platform, you can see the tiled sign on the wall saying that these trains go to Finsbury Park, as that is where the Piccadilly line once terminated
You may have also gathered by now, if you have been checking out the TfL website to plan your journeys or to figure out alternative routes during the Tube strike, that as well as the Tube there are also buses, trams, boats and bicycles on offer as public transportation options. During the last Tube strike there were photos in the paper of the queues of people lined up to take the boats across the Thames. So, speaking of photos and boats, your second mission is to capture the underside of a bridge. Obviously you don’t need to be on a boat to see underneath a bridge, but taking a boat across London offers a new perspective to modern eyes and a view of London from what has traditionally been one of its busiest thoroughfares.
-Elsie (who loves Camberwell!)
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