I have only just got around to reading John Lanchester’s delightful meditation on the London Underground. I missed it when it was published in the newspaper, but enough people shared it on social media that Twitter saw fit to e-mail it to me as a recommended story.
The essay deals with the rich topic of how we manage to be ‘alone’ in public places. Lanchester describes of the masques we wear and the techniques we use to create mental space to dwell within even though our physical personal space is invaded by other people at rush-hour.
It’s Wednesday evening and we’re on the Victoria Line. A young man strums a guitar and sings while his friend harmonises. Their refrain is “You mean the world to me” and I don’t know whether that’s a popular song in the charts that I have never heard, or of it is their own composition. I hope the latter.
The train pulls into Stockwell Station, where Jean Charles De Menezes was shot dead by CO5 officers. It is also the interchange with the Northern Line, so we get up to leave.
In quick succession, two images drift into my eye-line and draw my attention for the same reason. First, there is a photograph in the Evening Standard of an athlete in Team GB colours, her surname pinned to her chest. It is Lynsey Sharp, the Scot who has qualified for the final of the 800 metres.
A fascinating link that has been doing the rounds recently is the Live London Tube Map by Matthew Somerville. The link is meant to be here, but at present (24/6/2010) it is not active… probably because so many people re-tweeted it and I guess it makes pretty heavy demands on the servers of Transport For London, who provide the raw location data.
The appearance of Matt’s tube page inspires me to post a short concept for an urban game that I wrote a few years ago, uploaded to a wiki, and then failed to develop much further. It is reproduced below. I sense that Foursquare may actually perform many similar functions, though I haven’t used that platform yet. Either way, it would be great to get some input from people like those who run LiveFiction and Hide&Seek. Continue reading “The Underground Project”