Posts Tagged ‘sociology’

Shape Two

April 18, 2010

Shape Two began at at Whitechapel Art Gallery on a Sunday. There is now a second entrance to the gallery: just next to a fast food restaurant – 20 metres west of the main entrance – is a tiny gap between the buildings called Angel Alley. In 1888 a prostitute disappeared up Angel Alley and never returned alive.

From here I moved west along the Whitechapel Road and across the opening artery of Commercial Street which leads up to Hawksmoor’s famous Christchurch. I crossed over the road that forms part of a zero around the Algate East station – the island which houses St. Boltoph’s church – and then onto and along Aldgate. I took a dip down off Aldgate and onto London Street, a quiet road, particularly on a Sunday when the the City Of London is calm and business is on hold.  Down here is Fenchurch Street Station. Its an odd sight: a grand building nestled among bland, 20th century offices of glass and steel.  I’d come here for a purpose: the site sits on a leyline.

Christopher Wren’s grand designs for a post-fire London in 1666 were buried in bureaucracy and never came into fruition. However, significant evidence does remain. Presumably through Cabbalist reasoning, Wren used the Jewish distance of 2000 cubits to place significant sites. For example, the eastern city boundary from ‘the centre-point’ of St Paul’s, at a distance of 2000 cubits, is St Dunstan In The East – a church for which Wren also designed the spire. Another 2000 cubits beyond that point lies Wellclose Square, a once exclusive estate and a site of pilgrimage for many London occultists and alchemists. The significance of the 2000 cubits is that it was the distance from the walls of Jerusalem to the Mount Of Olives (roughly two thirds of a mile) and is the farthest a Jew may travel on the Sabbath.

This suggests Wren had plans for a ‘New Jerusalem’ that he never had the chance to construct and that Wellclose square is the same distance from (Wren’s) City Of London as The Mount Of Olives was from Jerusalem. On the leyline running from St Paul’s directly out to Wellclose Square, roughly three quarters of the way along, is Fenchurch Street station. Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth church also sits directly on the ley line a quarter of the way out.

Drawn out on a map, Shape Two surprised me. I had unwittingly traced the shape of a horse head in my steps.

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Shape One

January 16, 2010

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:

NO Different to Our Fathers Sons
OUR BOYS We Bring Em Back
In Shrouds
THICK RUBBER PLASTIC
Wrapped tight in UNION
We say that they our Glorious
We name these Boys as BRAVES
We call these MEN
OUR HEROES
We tell them to their Graves
Wounded
WORLD WON DAY
For until Each one is
Pray For
Our Collective Violence
And if we say they died in vain
WE INVALIDATE THE INVALIDS
AND MAKE A MOK OV GIVEN LIFE
AND SHATTER Bitter Comfort Dear!
Held Dear Close
By GRIEVING Why(f)
They Do Not Die In Vain My Friends…
They Do Not Throw Their Turn A WAY
They Die So We Can See Ourselves
CLEARLY
In The DAILY MIRROR ov their FRAGMENTED SHELLS
Real Souljahs
OUR SELVES
ALL MUST CUT WITH LOVE THE KNIFE
AND HEAL THE

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.


Epicentric?

December 7, 2009

In the last 12 months I have spent a year away from the city of London whilst I traveled the world, and during that journey I was initially relieved to be gone. But after some time I began to experience a strange sensation. It wasn’t homesickness: I didn’t wish to return. But something about the place I had left seemed impossible to forget. As I explored other foreign cities London became the default comparison. Naturally, after nearly a decade of living in London, its street names and buildings, bus routes and tube lines, haunts and domains, had all forged a map in my mind forever.

I became aware that London emits a strange and captivating distress call: an ambient melancholic transmission. Not necessarily just to entice, but to hypnotise and draw in, like the Odyssean sirens. For thousands of years people have been compelled to London. Exactly why? Perhaps initially for the chase of riches, excitement, work and success. But, only then does the collusion begin: a process which takes years. I had felt this from far, far away. London is perhaps a dying star in its own cosmos: its gravitational pull luring passing objects into a tight orbit. It’s mantle formed from millenia of trodden grime and clay and the spectacular fires that have razed the city in the past now form its burning core.

Two months ago I returned, and I am immersed both physically and literally by London once more. As an introduction to a biographical quest, Merlin Coverley’s ‘Occult London’ served as an intriguing segue to the tome which is Peter Ackroyd’s ‘London: A Biography’, which I’m currently reading. I am also keenly following the developments of John Rogers and Nick Papadimitriou’s Ventures In Topography project on Resonance FM, and generally scrounging for appealing historical detail online. I am aware that this type of interest has become quite fashionable, but I don’t really care about that. I would argue its a cultural phenomenon of nostalgia created from the wealth of information online, but paradoxically, by a desire to reengage with our physical surroundings and explore them. Others can probably explain it better…

I’d like this particular blog entry to serve as an introduction to a series of posts which explore London’s gravity and depth by weaving a thread through (post)modernity, esoterica, history and occultism. I have no idea how this will work exactly, but as my travels have taught me, if you want to learn something, you must go on a journey.