I've decided to go on walking tour. And in one of my very favorite cities--London! It's been a very, very long time since I traveled to London, but I still remember it vividly. I am very fortunate to have traveled there not once but twice and the second time I stayed for several weeks with friends. Un-fortunately an armchair walking tour is about all I can manage these days on my very restricted budget. Books, though, are always the next best thing--especially if the book is good and your imagination rises to the challenge.
Cath at Read Warbler suggested Mark Mason's Walk the Lines: The London Underground Overground. I've been itching for a really good nonfiction read and haven't been able to focus on one in particular (as a matter of fact have yet to finish a single nonfiction read so far this year!). I'm not even sure what made me reach for this other than picking through a variety of books and the appeal of not only London and spending time walking (I love walking outside and am going a little stir crazy with the incessant cold weather we've been dealing with . . . bring on spring please) was strong enough for me to dip into the book. Mason hooked me right away.
The premise--Mason decided to walk the entire length of the London Underground in order to truly 'know the city' and 'own it'. The catch is he walked each Underground line--overground and passing through each and ever tube station. To make things a little more interesting and as I always love a good reading project, I have pulled out my set of Penguin Lines. I love these little Penguin books (I have the Penguin Food boxed set and some of the Penguin English Journeys, too). They were published last year to celebrate 150 years of the London Underground.
"The city is filled with stories. For the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, twelve writers tell their tales, each inspired by a different Tube line. Some are personal, some are polemical; every one is unique, showing how we are connected, and how the space in which we live shapes us and our imaginations."
When I first discovered them I had to have them, bought each book and then promptly left them to their own devices on my bookshelves. Time to put them to use, however. Aren't they pretty? So, as Mason walks the lines I will follow his adventures and then supplement the reading with my Penguins. Mason's itinerary: Victoria, Bakerloo, Central, Hammersmith & City, District, Northern, Circle, Piccadilly, Waterloo & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan. The Penguin series has one additional book--East London, which I am not entirely sure how it fits in with the whole scheme, but I am sure I will figure it out soon enough.
The extracurricular reading may well diverge drastically from Mason's writing. I have started reading Mind the Child by Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company. The Victoria Line--Mind the Child is a play on 'mind the gap', but she takes as her subject the disadvantaged children she works with who have fallen between the cracks of society. It's been an eye opening and occasionally painful read. Each author of the Penguin series was able to interpret the theme in their own way, so it should be an interesting read and I am curious how it will all tie together.
As for the Mason. It's quite humorous and more than a little chatty. It seems to be chock filled with all sorts of London and London Underground trivia. I suspect some of it might turn out to be a little over my head as I won't catch all the references, but there should still be plenty of interest to me. For example (and I swear I'd read this somewhere but had forgotten):
"If you ever want a sense of peace at Victoria, this is the place to come [Victoria Tube Station]. Not because it's especially quiet, but rather because a plaque at the ticket barrier commemorates the arrival of the station's most famous (though nameless) visitor. At 8.32 p.m. on 10 November 1920, this was the end of the journey from Dover for the train carrying the Unknown Warrior."
I plan on reading each Penguin book in tandem with the corresponding chapter in Walk the Lines, so it may take me a while to get through the book, but I will share my own 'journey' here. I have also ordered the London A-Z Street Atlas so I can follow Mason's walk. I think it will be more meaningful to me to 'see' it in some way. Besides, I love looking at city maps and it will make the reading experience all the more richer.
I hope the weather is fine in London. I know I am ready for a good walk!