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Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground [Format Kindle]

Mark Mason

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

"Endlessly fascinating" (Spectator)

"An extraordinary odyssey" (Robert Elms BBC London)

"This engaging book puts its best foot forward" (Independent)

"Crammed with delightful facts ... a constantly fascinating journey" (Shortlist)

"Rediscovers the Underground" (The Times)

Présentation de l'éditeur

The only way to truly discover a city, they say, is on foot. Taking this to extremes, Mark Mason sets out to walk the entire length of the London Underground - overground - passing every station on the way.

In a story packed with historical trivia, personal musings and eavesdropped conversations, Mark learns how to get the best gossip in the City, where to find a pint at 7am, and why the Bank of England won't let you join the M11 northbound at Junction 5. He has an East End cup of tea with the Krays' official biographer, discovers what cabbies mean by 'on the cotton', and meets the Archers star who was the voice of 'Mind the Gap'.

Over the course of several hundred miles, Mark contemplates London's contradictions as well as its charms. He gains insights into our fascination with maps and sees how walking changes our view of the world. Above all, in this love letter to a complicated friend, he celebrates the sights, sounds and soul of the greatest city on earth.

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4.0 étoiles sur 5 It's "Ho-bun," not "Hol-born." 10 mai 2014
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
"There's no one place where you can stand and say, 'This is it ‒ I've found London.' Never stops you looking, though." ‒ from WALK THE LINES

"Yes, London is a great anvil on which to hammer out the truth, but eventually you realize it's the truth about what you're not rather than what you are. London, you see on a Sunday evening, isn't going to add a magical ingredient to your personality ... As I traipse yet more deserted streets to Olympia station, where an empty train pulls in to collect passengers who aren't there, and then back through a quietening Earl's Court to my hotel , all those 'face the truth' London Sundays fill my memory. God, I hate this place sometimes." ‒ from WALK THE LINES

Ok, ok. I love London more than any city I've ever lived in or visited. And riding The Tube embodies, for me, the essence of being there. Yet Mark Mason, the author of WALK THE LINES, herein does something I'd never want or attempt to do on my best days even if I was decades younger ‒ walk between the stations on each of the Underground's lines (Victoria, Bakerloo, Central, Hammersmith and City, District, Northern, Circle, Piccadilly, Waterloo and City, Jubilee, and Metropolitan.) As a purist, he ignored the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), which, like London Overground, comes under the umbrella of London Rail rather than London Underground.

That's 269 stations visited ‒ some more than once, e.g. King's Cross with six visits on six lines and Holborn ("Ho-bun") twice on two lines ‒ and 403.2 miles walked in 174 hours and 50 minutes spread over the period June through December, 2010.

The armchair traveler might think that WALK THE LINES is chock-a-block filled with interesting information and trivia about places passed and sights seen along the way. Granted, many of the streets and roads Mark travels are necessarily dull. I mean, how much can you say about residential areas or various combinations of chemist, estate agent, Indian take-away, bank, Tesco or Sainsbury, pub, launderette, and post office? At times in the narrative, he positively sprints past station after station. But, still. When passing down Queen Victoria Street approaching Bank station, he remarks on the juxtaposition of buildings from widely separated eras but doesn't mention the foundation ruins of the Roman Temple of Mithras there on the right. And, when sauntering down Charing Cross Road between Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road stations, he completely ignores Foyles, that most iconic of bookstores, over on the left. And he's a writer by profession! Sometimes the omissions are just too glaring to ignore.

Realizing, perhaps, that there was a certain sameness to his approach for walking each line, Mason does do the Jubilee Line at night, and he and a friend turn the Circle Line circuit into a pub crawl that has the author imbibing "4 halves of bitter, 1 of mild, 1 of IPA, 2 of cider, 8 of lager, 3 bottles of lager, 1 gin and tonic, 5 vodka and tonics, 1 vodka, lime and soda, and 1 Pimm's."

But, that's not to say that WALK THE LINES is not without nuggets. Perhaps two of the best are Mark's conversations with Rachel, who's studying the mind-boggling Knowledge (of London's streets) that will allow her to become a licensed cabbie, and with Tim Bentinck, who for 15 years was the Piccadilly Line's "mind the gap" voice.

For me, the successful travel narrative compels me to either want to visit or positively avoid a place. Of course, I need no excuse to visit London. However, WALK THE LINES adds little to what my past experience with the city has been or what I hope future experience will be. That said, however, I must still award Mason's book four stars simply for documenting a stiff upper-lip achievement. How can one not but admire the determination to finish a self-assigned project that, at its lowest point, would cause him to write (on the Piccadilly Line):

"The final few miles are hard work, harder with every step. Well past 30 miles for the day now. That seems to be the figure at which the endorphin-high begins to wear off, its place taken at first by a neutrally vacant feeling, then actual depression. Everything is viewed through this new prism ... Between North Ealing and Ealing Common a couple sit on opposite sides of a table in their front room, each staring silently at a laptop. They're probably just catching up on emails, but I insist on seeing an imminent divorce."
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