Archive

Zone 1

RIPI love cats as much as I love the Underground, cups of tea, Carry On films and other things of varying shades of embarrassment.

But I’m forever disappointed at how badly cats, specifically those who make their home in a particular location, get immortalised for posterity.

Contextualised felines fare especially badly in popular music. Stray cats don’t count. I’m referring to ones who make a specific place their stamping, or rather padding, ground. I can’t find a trace of any song called Station Cat*, the creature doesn’t turn up in the schoolyards remembered by Cat Stevens or Paul Simon, while Farmyard Cat by Prefab Sprout is easily the worst song Paddy McAloon has ever written.

Thankfully there’s at least one cat whose legacy lives on in words, if not in music. Pebbles gets a touching tribute at Barbican station, whose platform nooks and walkway crannies he made his home for many years until his death in 1997.

For part of his life Pebbles had a cohort called Barbie, with whom he apparently shared the run of the station, but about whom no mention is made on the memorial plaque. Both cats were due to appear at a ceremony in 1997, where Pebbles was to have been given some sort of lifetime achievement award before being photographed with Patrick Moore and a gaggle of GMTV presenters.

At least death spared him, and us, this indignity. Instead he remains, to this day, “greatly loved and missed by station staff and customers.” Even by those, like me, who never met him.

*Once I’ve finished all 150 entries, I might remedy this.

Cathedral of modernityHaving already swooned over the statues on the outside of London Underground’s HQ, I feel any further words of my own can’t possibly do justice to the wonder that is the whole of the building.

So I’ll let other people’s words do that for me.

Foundation“When I realised the full possibilities of this [building’s] cross-shaped plan – good light, short corridors, and a compact centre containing all services, complete with lifts and staircase communicating directly with all four wings… I do not think I was ever more excited.”
– Charles Holden, 1944

Flying the flag“Charles Holden built embassies of modernism. If you wanted symbolism of a newer world, he was making those shapes against the sky.”
– Peter York, 2013

Broadway melody '55“The building, begun in 1928, was constructed by The Foundation Company and completed in 1930. When finished it had a floor area of 31,000 sq ft. Above the second floor the building had a central tower and four wings, each 48ft wide. The wings necessarily varied in length, the east wing was 100ft, the west was 76ft and the other two were just 60ft. The top of the tower was 176ft above road level, and was surmounted by a 60ft flagstaff.”
Mike Horne

A central Park“Frank Pick [who commissioned the building] was the greatest patron of the arts whom this century has so far produced in England, and indeed the ideal patron of our age.”
– Nikolaus Pevsner, 1968

Jesus H. Cruciform

“The historic home of London Underground is to be converted into expensive flats as part of a drive by transport chiefs to raise more than £1 billion. The Grade I-listed building at 55 Broadway… is unsuitable for a modern office, say bosses. Lower floors will be converted into one-bedroom apartments and the rest will be penthouses. LU boss Mike Brown said: ‘Any development must respect the building’s heritage. We will proceed sensitively.'”
– London Evening Standard, 15 May 2013

Warren's treatWarren’s Treat was the name of a novel I almost started writing in my 20s. I thought the title was terribly witty, likewise the idea that everyone in the book would be named after a London-based railway station.

Naturally, I now see that the whole concept was shockingly pretentious and am glad I didn’t have the time, or more correctly the commitment, to get round to doing anything about it. It would also have been a bit too close to this slice of audio horror for comfort.

A much more agreeable application of the station’s name can be found on the walls of the Victoria line platforms:

A maze in graceAlan Fletcher conceived the maze, he of the V&A logo, Penguin book covers, the BP petrol pump and just about every significant example of public British graphic design of the 1960s and 70s.

The “warren” is supposedly possible to navigate in around three minutes. But this does presuppose you have reason to be on the platform for around three minutes, which given the frequency of Victoria line trains isn’t always the case. It’s more suited for idling away gaps in the service, or if you find yourself stuck in the station waiting for a train further up or down the line to sort out a problem with its doors. (Or rather, sort out a passenger who’s created a problem with the doors, usually by TRYING TO ENTER THE CARRIAGE WHEN THEY’RE CLOSING.)

There’s also the additional hazard of someone deciding to sit down right in front of the maze. It’s a little unfortunate that the designs are embedded directly above benches. A woman sat down seconds after I took these photos, and I had to stop myself from scowling (yes, hard to believe).

Yet despite all this I think we can all agree it’s a far more successful manifestation of London transport wordplay than a book with characters such as Rick Mansworth, Colin Dale, the Scottish tearway Cal E. Donian, and the eccentric preacher Canon Bury.

Do not sit here