All the Streets

125 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.

Two bits of news for you today.

First and foremost, my laptop died. Probably forever. I crossed my fingers and let it sit overnight but it looks like it might not have helped. Grrrrrr.

This will somewhat hinder the process of writing/posting because I’m going to have to cobble together a workspace from various tablet-y devices and borrowed computers. WordPress’ iPad app is abominable so the posts may not be too pretty, and without Picasa I might not be able to put in any collages of lovely places (the most heartbreaking fact for me). But fear not. I will make sure the secrets of London’s streets get to you no matter what.

The second announcement, and this is a big one, is that I am walking ALL the streets of London. As an avid reader of this blog you might have already heard that news and you probably already knew what that meant, but after a visit to Heron Tower this week, it turns out that I did know what that meant.

ALL the streets?

I meet a lot of people on my walks and at some point (probably because I’m covered with cameras and markers and maps) they ask what exactly it is I’m doing.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: I’m working on a project to walk all the streets of central London and share what I find.
Stranger: Oh wow. That’s pretty cool.
Me: Here, I’ll show you my map. This is where I’ve been already.
Enter: several pages of a tired, tatty, beaten up map with all the streets coloured in.
Stranger: *looks at the map, then at me curiously, then back at the map* Wait, you mean ALL the streets?
ME: *nod*
Them: Like every single one?
Me: Yep
Them: That’s really cool. *pause* But…why?

I’ll leave that last question to my About page to answer (and, hopefully, a FAQ page I hope to get up this week). It’s the “All the streets?” moment I wanted to talk about here.

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There’s something about seeing the actual map with all the streets marked off that makes it more real to people. It really hits home how much I’ve done and what a detailed project it is. They love interacting with the map too. Almost everyone starts looking to see where we are and for streets they know. We talk about our favourite places, swap secrets and share a lovely, Londony moment before they finally say, “You’re really walking all of this? That’s a LOT of streets”.

Maybe it’s because I’m always talking about the project that it doesn’t seem shocking to me. It just seems like the logical thing to do. The Congestion Zone is a big squiggly circle on my wall that slowly gets more and more full of fat squiggly lines. Every walk is one walk. Every street is one street. I don’t really feel the hugeness of the project the way strangers do. At least I didn’t until this week.

Heron Tower

I visited Heron Tower on Day 7 and loved the view, particularly how you can look down right into the Gherkin. I enjoyed the new perspective of St. Paul’s too and being taller than all the skyscrapers around. That first visit was one of the best moments on all my walks, even up to today. A friend and fellow London addict was in town this week so I thought I’d share the experience with her. I figured I’d enjoy watching her reaction as she saw the view for the first time even though I was sure it wouldn’t give me the rush it did the time before.

I stood against the window and scanned the view across the city, checking out the Tower of London, naming the bridges down to Charing Cross, and enjoying St. Paul’s dome. Then something crazy happened and things went all weird in my head: I saw the BT Tower.

That tower is not a particularly sentimental place for me and it wasn’t hugely exciting to see it the day I was there (in fact, on the whole, it was one of the more boring days I’ve had). It was just another part of London on another walk on another day, interesting in its way but merely one part of the bigger project. From this view though, I saw that the tower was SOOOOO far away. I could not believe how far away it was. I mean really really far. It was just a tiny spec on the horizon.

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Click for the full-sized image!

When I saw it so far in the distance, it suddenly sank in just how much of the city I have already covered. My mind wasn’t blown by how big the city is or how big the project is or any of that. It’s that I actually saw, in a truly physical sense, how much I have walked, how much distance I have covered, and how many streets there are between Heron and BT Towers.

Then a second wave of weirdness hit when I realised that Heron Tower does not sit on the boundary of the Congestion Zone. That meant there was a whole load of city behind me I couldn’t even factor into this new mental equation. It was all a bit much for me, I must say.

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That moment really changed my perspective on the project as a whole and I felt the difference on my next walk. Instead of each marker swipe being a tick on a map-shaped To Do list, they have become stamps on what I have seen and done, permanent records of an adventure that will now always be a part of my life. Even if I had to stop today, I can now say I’d be impressed with what I have done so far. That’s no small feat for me to admit.

If that’s how I felt when I’m not even half-way done, I can’t imagine what it might feel like when I’m sipping a pint with you at my celebration party and it sinks in that I actually did it all. I can’t wait to find out.

See you next time! 

125 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.


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