Synesthesia

Notes on stuff

Tagged Posts: London

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31-10-2010

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An unremarkable coincidence

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29-04-2008

A few months ago I spent some time exploring my wife’s family tree. One fragment of jigsaw was a census return from 1851 showing one of her 3–greats-grandfathers, then age 16, living with his parents at 13 Cambridge Street in Soho.

1851 census abstract

I looked at the current London street map and found there is no Cambridge Street in Soho any more, and that was the end of my curiosity.

Skip forward to last week, and I finally got around to reading Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

Johnson takes as his central theme the story of John Snow, and his pioneering work with Henry Whitehead during and after the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho which proved for the first time that cholera was a water-borne infection.

One of the key tools used by Snow was to plot the course of the outbreak on a map. Looking at the map I realised I had found Cambridge Street – the old name for the upper part of what is now Lexington Street.

The slightly more detailed general Board of Health Map based on Snow’s work also shows the old house numbers – and this shows number 13, just 7 doors down from the infamous pump which spread the disease.

General Board of Health map

The coincidence is that a direct ancestor of my wife lived in a house which, three years after evidence of their residence, was in the centre of a particularly virulent and well-documented outbreak of cholera. Today, in a modern city, that would be worthy of comment: in Victorian London perhaps less so.

We have no way of knowing if they were still in residence three years after the census, and thus survivors of the outbreak, but even if they had moved on, the descriptions of the Broad Street area provide a fascinating insight into the circumstances in which they lived.

More interesting, to me at least, are the aspects of my curiosity which set up this piece of serendipitous discovery – family history, networks of connections, a lifelong fascination with maps and the story they tell, and the ever-fascinating mental game of “What if… ?”

Links roundup for 2008-03-16

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17-03-2008

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22-02-2006

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13-02-2006

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London Atrocities

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09-07-2005

There’s been an outpouring of blog entries about this week’s events but strangely I’ve felt no desire to write myself until now.

I was lucky – running late for work I was still waiting at my suburban tube station when the network was shut down. That meant I spent the day at home, watching things slowly unfold on the net and the TV. Like many others I know people who were more closely affected, though so far as I know so far all have had lucky escapes.

The desire not to write (until now) has I think been to do with my own preferred way of dealing with new and disturbing events in the world – in that sense at least I am an introspective person. I’ve discussed things with people close to me, but not felt that there was something I wanted to write.

I’ve used the tube since Thursday, and like others admit to being a little more wary, a little more alert to what was going on around me – but not really any more so than during other times when terrorists were active in this city.

But as the days pass the other emotions come to the surface – anger that this has happened in the city that has been my adopted home for nearly twenty years, a belief that the most one individual can do is be determined to get on with their life and enjoy the freedom that London grants, and a feeling of utter contempt for the perpetrators who think they can drag us down to their level.

The London News Review says it bluntly, Ken Livingstone has risen to a surprisingly good level of oratory and unsurprisingly Tom Coates has said almost exactly what I wanted to say about not writing before I did.

It happened. I feel very sorry for those who have lost loved ones or suffered life-changing injuries, and extend them all the empathy in the world. And now the people who live here are going to just get on with things.

The end.

You You

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15-11-2003

Maison Bertaux in Greek Street is a long-established patisserie in a seedy-ish bit of Soho. An unprepossessing shopfront admits you to a cramped room filled with four small tables where you can consume good coffee and the best French cakes in London…
If you go there on a Sunday morning you will most likely be served by Metin – a friendly articulate guy perhaps early 50s. But on Thursday night Maison Bertaux was transformed into the Maison Bertaux Theatre Club, and Metin is the writer, director and lead actor of “You You”.

Elephant. A pachyderm with a prehensile proboscis

We are greeted by Johann – another sometime worker in the shop – who pours us a glass of wine and leaves us (the 7 people that are the audience) to sit and chat, eyes wandering over the Victorian shopfittings and Lincrusta-covered walls.
A little after 9:00 Johann picks up his piano-accordion and announces that he will play us in to the strains of the “You-You waltz” – so we troop upstairs and settle in the 15′ x 15′ upstairs room, lit only by four desk lamps with red bulbs.
Three actors (Metin Marlow, Tania Wade, Guy Manning), dressed in black file in and proceed to entrance us for the next 45 minutes. No props. No scenery. Just inter-action and swirling, trance-making dialogue.

..The lunatic, the sane
The brain, the brain
The brain can’t explain…

What’s it about?
About a man trying to buy a greyhound in a public toilet.
About a friend who “will die for him”.
About lust so strong that both man and woman are reduced to half-sentences.
About loneliness.
About regret for missed opportunities, passion unexpressed.
About life lived to the core – but also a sense that even in the deepest of relationships our lives merely touch tangentially before continuing their own trajectories…

But you could see other things there – that’s the power…

I remember remembering you since I first remember.

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