Squashed gothic churches, beheaded saints, mysterious alleyways and a preponderance of dustbins.
It doesn’t take much to make a familiar place unfamiliar. A change in the weather – rain, bright sunshine, or more dramatically, snowfall or fog can all do it. Smells too – who hasn’t found themselves aware of sniffing more consciously than normal when drains are blocked, or there’s a whiff of barbecue, bonfire or worse in the air?
And then of course there are a place’s distinctive sounds.
I recently went in search for an ‘anonymous suburb’.
This is what I discovered.
In a city of hills, one in particular stands out. Today Brandon Hill is a leafy, peaceful, city centre park, but over the course of more than 900 years, it has been the site of political protest, feasts, riots, celebrations, farewells, gun emplacements, hermits’ chapels and public clothes washing.
I’m back. It’s been a while. The woods behind my parents’ house on Tickenham Ridge haven’t changed hugely in the last few months – the seasons have cycled through and for now the hill is a shining riot of green in a dozen shades.
An hour earlier I was in these woods in company with my two boys, my sister, brother-in-law, two nephews and my Dad, but this time I am alone and things feel different.
Not far from where I work in Clerkenwell, a series of large orange and white flags fixed to lampposts line the major thoroughfares running through Holborn, Chancery Lane, Bloomsbury and St Giles. They state blithely that you are InMidtown, before in tiny print, grudgingly acknowledging the actual names of the places they are attempting to reinvent.
Alongside and beneath its hundreds of miles of railway tracks and arches, there exists another London.
A London of inner city edgelands – liminal spaces that create internal thresholds within the metropolis – including, in North London, a working farm.