I found a piece of newspaper screwed up in the bottom of my bag. I’d ripped it out of the Sunday Star-Times’ travel section when I was waiting at the Hair Event. On it there was a picture of the tower that houses Big Ben. Next to it, the caption reads “Big Ben, just one of several historic buildings in London.”
Apart from the fact that Big Ben is the bell, not the building (as every good pedant knows), the way the caption suggests that London has “several” historic buildings is quite astounding. Hamilton has “several” historic buildings. Gore probably has “several” historic buildings. It’s not like in London there’s Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, Parliament and – oh, that’s all there is. Everything else has been knocked down and replaced with cheap office buildings and Starbucks.
I stole the “as every good pedant knows” line from a book I’ve just read called “Do not pass go” by Tim Moore. It’s a personal exploration of all the streets and locations around London that feature on the British Monopoly board. He manages to skilfully combine historical facts, personal history and tales of his adventures.
Alert readers will recall my musings on 31/01/03 about the time when cigarettes were popular and socially acceptable, but before we knew how unhealthy they were. During his visit to Pall Mall, he discusses the history of tobacco and that part of London, and notes:
“It’s probably unhelpful to speak of a golden age of smoking, but in the thirties the pastime certainly reached its browny-yellow London zenith… In the thirties Britain had the world’s highest incidence of lung cancer, and by the war seven out of ten men and a third of all women smoked.”
It’s also interesting to note that the Phillip Morris tobacco company named one of its products after a Monopoly Street. Yes, in honour of their factory on Marlborough Street, the company brought out a new cigarette named Marlboro.
Eventually a roll of the dice will lead us to Trafalgar Square. I like the word Trafalgar. It’s as satisfying as Manhattan. Auckland almost had a giant roundabout called Trafalgar Circus. New Zealand’s first surveyor-general, Felton Mathew, had drawn up a plan for the city streets. Part of it involved the Trafalgar Circus roundabout thing being build kind of near the northern end of Albert Park.
Now, this is cool. Like the Octagon in Dunedin it’s an example of a big and interestingly shaped road feature. But the thing that Felton Mathew seemed to forget as he sat at his desk drawing circles with his protractor is that the land he was working with was really hilly. As far as I can tell, the only part of this that ever eventuated was a quarter of the inner circle, which is the part of Kitchener Street that goes along side the Northern Club – and that’s a really freaky steep street. Continuing on from that is Waterloo Quadrant, which has the planned name of one of the quarters of Trafalgar Circus, but has ended up being a straight road.
(I swear, I have no idea how I know all this.)
There’s a Trafalgar Street in Onehunga. I went there today. There’s a mural that proclaims “Onehunga – Something old, something new”. And that’s really what it’s like. There’s the giant outlet mall, and there’s the Hard To Find bookshop, both co-existing amid the tiles and murals.