Queen of the road


Let’s leave aside today. I think would be best, don’t you agree? Given the aftermath of the pub-quiz-and-Wandle-ale mash-up that saw me struggle to achieve the perpendicular this morning. Oh dear. That’s what happens when a very popular housemate chooses to move out and has to be waved off in style at the end of a week taken as holiday. A gallon of tea, a sports massage and a big bag of apples worked their magic and by lunchtime all was well again, but productivity has dipped, nonetheless.

Not like yesterday. Yesterday, even before the pub quiz (at which we were solidly mediocre) there had been Achievements, such that I am now able to inform a waiting world that it takes three and a half hours to walk from Stoke Newington to Tooting, a distance of about 12 miles. A crisp, cold day it was – perfect, but PERFECT, for walking. If you wish to try it yourself, expect to start needing a pee somewhere around groovy Shoreditch, and to be starving by the City’s skyscrapers of Bishopsgate, your lunch a distant, burned-off memory. The need to pee should have stabilised by Kennington, but by Stockwell you’ll be fantasising about every meal you’ve ever eaten. By Clapham South even the smoky extractor fan outside that dodgy-looking kebab shop will smell good.

The timing was ok, although another half-hour of daylight would have been better: I left Stokie at 3.30 and just had time to get through Hoxton and into the home straight to London Bridge by sunset. It would have been easier but uglier just to walk down Kingsland Road, but instead I went by the side streets, hence the need to reach at least familiar-ish ground to minimise the peering at the A-Z in gathering gloom.

This leads us, of course, to my absolute hero – Phyllis Pearsall, designer of my right hand, my handbag must-have, my Bible: the A-Z of London. She drew it up because she got lost one evening going to a party in Belgravia. The only navigation tool she had was an OS map from 1919 (this was in 1935! A 14-year-old OS map?) so she decided to make her own. Up she got, early every morning, walked 3,000 miles and drew up one of the greatest information systems of the 20th century. No one would publish it, so bugger me if she didn’t set up her own publishing company to produce it, and soon it was selling like hot cakes. How come we never hear of Phyllis Pearsall, unlike, say, the bloke who designed the Tube map? Weeell, we don’t like to sound bitter, but let’s just say I bet a gentleman would have been more lauded.

Anyway, she walked everywhere, she was relentlessly curious, she worked hard, she saw a problem and fixed it, she overcame every obstacle to bring her idea to life. Christ, she even went to parties on her own. Then she designed the finest map in the world. Pearsall, you absolutely rule.


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