The Shape began close to a ghost road in East London. Ostensibly, the junction at the southern tip of Kingsland Road is a crossroad. Except it isn’t. The junction is the convergence point of four roads: Kingsland Road, Old Street, Shoreditch High Street and Hackney Road. But, in fact, there is a phantom fifth: a small invisible right turn leads Kingsland Road into Old Street: Ophir Road. As far as I know, its naming is obscured, perhaps even unmarked on street level, but the ever roving Google Eye discloses the past as simply as the present.
If that is not intriguing enough – that an ancient road can exist but not not be seen – then its name offers a further enigma. Ophir is a biblical name for an unidentified region. The name is linked with King Solomon’s Mines: a mythical treasure trove purported to exist in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and China, among others.
From Kingsland Road I took Ophir Road, unknown to me at the time, and my perambulation – and Shape One – began. I hadn’t planned the shape, and in fact I wasn’t conscious that the shape had begun either. I was heading to the Artbook Bookshop on Pitfield Road and as soon as I turned the street corner I could see the bookshop was closed. A small panic arose, subdued only by reaching the sign in the window. I would have to wait a further forty minutes until it opened and it was then I decided on my derivé.
I crossed Old Street diagonally, to the corner of Tabernacle Street, where a nondescript religious brick monument stands opposite another, doomed, brick bastion which holds a far more powerful and contemporary resonance: The Foundry. Along Tabernacle and right into Leonard Street, sidling beside the church nestled among the bars, graphic designers and architects. Along one side of the church prose had been sprayed on a long jet-black construction hoarding. The silver sprayed words disjointed, dodging and weaving the fly posters. It read:
It finished abruptly, the final word missing. Perhaps the author ran out of time. Perhaps the author was caught.
What followed was a series of loops. I walked in a circle around the wheel at the crossing of Leonard Street and Paul Street, and then I took another loop around the old Church and back onto Leonard Street to head East. I crossed Great Eastern Street (presumably named after the 1862 railway company) and up Charlotte Road to cross Old Street and into Hoxton Square. There I made a full anti-clockwise circuit.
On Coronet Street, behind the Lux bar, stands The Vestry Of St Leonard Shoreditch Electric Light Station with its Latin motto carved in stone:
E PULERE LUX ET VIS (‘Out of the dust, light and power’).
Over time since 1895 it burnt refuse to create steam which powered a generator for electricity. Only the shell remains now. Inside, students use the huge chambers to learn the circus trade. From here, I sauntered up a Hoxton vein (Pitfield Street) into the heart of Hoxton, past The George & Vulture pub, past the Habidashers Alms house, bombed in World War I.
By now the bookshop had to be open. So I moved south down Pitfield Street and Shape One ended.