Walk the Lines: The London Underground by Mark Mason

“A man once said “A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else,” and I might have to agree. I guess it will come as no surprise that since I moved to London books that revolve around London have been cropping up on my radar a little more. I want to talk extensively about my move here at some point and how it’s honestly changed me but for now I want to talk a little about a book I’ve been dipping in and out of not, truly ‘reading’ in giant hunks, but one I’ve enjoyed all the same. Walk the Lines by Mark Mason.

The only way to truly discover a city, they say, is on foot. Taking this to extremes, Mark Mason sets out to walk the entire length of the London Underground – overground – passing every station on the way.

img_1963In a story packed with historical trivia, personal musings and eavesdropped conversations, Mark learns how to get the best gossip in the City, where to find a pint at 7am, and why the Bank of England won’t let you join the M11 northbound at Junction 5. He has an East End cup of tea with the Krays’ official biographer, discovers what cabbies mean by ‘on the cotton’, and meets the Archers star who was the voice of ‘Mind the Gap’.

Over the course of several hundred miles, Mark contemplates London’s contradictions as well as its charms. He gains insights into our fascination with maps and sees how walking changes our view of the world. Above all, in this love letter to a complicated friend, he celebrates the sights, sounds and soul of the greatest city on earth.

As the blurb suggests the book follows Mason who has lived in around London during is twenties and thirties and like many Londoner’s (I assume) has become interested in the ever changing and evolving map of the Underground. Wandering around where he lives, he travels up a side-street he hasn’t before and realizes if he continues he’ll create a triangle back to his house – a realization he hasn’t made before. Through this realization he decides to walk the entirety of each length of the line in a type of homage to the city. Line by line and with the help of his friend Richard he beings to walk these tube lines and learns and tells us a lot about the city I bloody adore.

I just want to put in a little aside here – Mason only walks 11 of the London Underground Lines refusing to walk the Overground Line and the DLR (which I find a little unfair – definitely still part of London.) Mason wanders the line giving snippets of local history, miscellaneous facts that might one day help on a pub quiz and changes in the line themselves. He is a really entertaining narrator (especially in the beginning of the book) and I found myself desperate to undertake the walks myself especially the Circle Line Pub Crawl.

I guess it’s important to explain I haven’t finished this book and it’s one of the reasons why I’mimg_1962 also yet to finish a Bill Bryson book (which this author certainly reminded me of.) The beginning of the book is really interesting, it’s new ground, it’s a non-fiction book written in a fiction style (in terms of the narration) but soon, as you can imagine we do end up walking through endless housing estates and then leading back into the same famous central locations that we all know and love. As the lines cross we do get quite a bit of repetition.

Due to this a lot of stations do end up being cut; the first couple of stations take up a couple of chapters but as we go further in stops between Whitechaple and Upminster take up a quarter of this. I think a big selling point to this (unless you live along the DLR or the Over Ground shrugs) is that you get to pick out your station and read about it, but many don’t get the coverage unless they’re big names (ie Wimbledon or Morden.) Finally, Mason appears to get a little bored with his own story; although the pub crawl is fun it does feel as though Mason realized that he’d lost a little passion and needed something to inject to make it fun. Following this certain walks are undertaken in the snow and done at night (which does stop the author seeing a lot of the highlights.)

I think a main problem is that it doesn’t really reference people, it references buildings and so it lacks a little passion. I’ve seen it described in context with Bleeding London by Geoff Nicholson but they have two very different ways of telling this story that don’t really overlap.

So, what did I think. I really enjoy dipping in and out of this book – read one tube line, put the book down for a bit, read another tube line, put it down for a bit. It’s not a book I think I could physically read in one go because for me it just lacks a little something. A little bit of a human touch. However – perfect gift for a new Londoner and even more perfect gift for a walker who might be tempted to walk the 11 (cough) lines. For me a great dip in and out but not quite there.

LIIIIINKS

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Week Commencing: Nov 14

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Where has November gone? Already I’m starting to make lists for Christmas; what does Mumma B want, what does Char Balds wants, WHAT CAN I AFFORD. I want to write a post about London living soon (it feels a little soon a couple of months in) but has been a bit of a shock in terms of money. It’s not really every day things but as EVERYONE says renting is just well, sickening. (I’ve been watching a lot of Ru Paul #yaaaas.) This week has been pretttty horrible, but I want to feel positive, so here’s a week in my life.

GYM LIFE (and new outfit) 

As some of you will have seen – (if you add me on Instagram.) I’ve been a little Gym Mad recently. I’ve been on a little bit of a weight loss campaign which I might update you on, I don’t know whether that’s something you would want to see?) But I invested in a couple of new tops, bottoms and this new Greenwich University Water Bottle. I drink no-where near the recommended amount but having this water bottle (in the most the yellow colour,) means I never forget it or lose it!

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NEW BOOKSS! 

I’ve recently started The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz. I can’t lie it’s been a little while since I read anything from the Millenium Series so I’m struggling a little to remember. It’s always awkward when you leave a series a couple of years back and then have to try and sink yourself back into the story. I have to admit I can tell it’s not the original author, but I’m not hating on it. Review to come soon!

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Views from our flat

I will move on and start talking about things that aren’t our beautiful flat soon but honestly, this view in the morning whilst eating my scrambley eggs on toast is just fantastic. I find it hard to start the day in anything other than a really brilliant mood because of this view. Imagine me, sat in my unicorn pyjamas, eating breakfast on the sofa with Ru Paul and then seeing this view – #happydays.

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The Greenwich Union Pub 

Gah, T and I love this place so much! I think I mentioned that my Dad was born in Greenwich so there’s a lot of family history in Greenwich. If you walk from my street cross the road and walk forwards you walk past where my Great Nana and my own Nana used to live and then you come to this pub which is PERFECTION. They have over 150 beautiful beers for all tastes, and a fantastic looking food menu. T and I are going back soon to try it out!

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Warm Clothes (THANK YOU STOKE.)

Moving to London I thought – oh my it will be blue skies, and wonderous Sun. It is still November and it is BLOODY COLD. I think living in Stoke where it rained almost 24/7 has prepared me. I’ve been wearing a blanket like Poncho all week and it is just the snuggliest thing eva. (Sorry for another feet photo.)

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So there you go, another week in the life of Lizzy. I should also mention here that I’ve written four book reviews and it just felt so good to get back into it. I’m happiest when I’m writing and I’ve missed my blog hugely. I think currently there will only be one review a week but they’ll all be fantastic books that I hope you enjoy.

Week Commencing: Nov 7

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Hello readers – I’m here, on a Tuesday with another Week commencing. I realise I haven’t written a book review in a little while but now that we finally have internet I spent the weekend having a content update so look forward to some new reviews cause after having a 5hr commute for three weeks (OH MY LIFE,) I have a lot of new reviews to write. But for now, another week commencing because I really enjoyed writing the last (and they will be my new Monday post! Not Tuesday ;))

Cannalo at Casa Cannoli

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One of the beauties from Greenwich Market (which we might not be able to get away from in these weekly updates because oh my life – I adore Greenwich Market.) T bought three of these; pistachio, lemon and hazlenut.) These were honestly incredible – hazlenut was definitely my favourite but even though we’d eaten hella burritos at the market we couldn’t help but dig into these.

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Fried Eggs (and lots of toast)

Maybe this is a little, I don’t know odd. But I have never really been a massive breakfast person. I’m kind of the grab an apple and diet coke can as I ran out the door, but I’ve been making a lot of effort to make breakfast every day and I have fallen in love with fried eggs. This (below) covered with hot-sauce #yaaaas.

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Vietnamese food (specifically baguettes.) 

I mean look at this. Lemon grass chicken, a hella load of sauces, crispy onions, cucumber and whole load of other bits and bobs. This was delicious.

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MERMAID TAIL!!!

Okay – I bought a mermaid tail blanket and honestly – no regrets. This blanket is warm and snuggly and both T and I have been loving it. I think the New Look one I bought it now out of stock (probably because the fantastic Hannah Gale gave it a shout out.) But I’ll let you know if they re-appear!

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Flannel shirts (and Autumn in general!) 

Gah – I adore a flannel shirt and a cosy coat combo. This is my favourite I’ve been rocking for a couple of week but I utterly adore it. Snuggly leggings, flat shoes (I mean London can hurt your toes) an over-the-shoulder bag. YAAAS.

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I tried to get this out on Tuesday but I just didn’t have time. I’m so busy with 10000000 other bits and pieces. But I hope you enjoyed this post – without further ado I’m off to finish reading the new Lisbeth Salander book – cherrrio.

Week Commencing: Nov 1

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Hello readers – I’m here, on a Wednesday and it’s not a book review? What, I hear you say. Well – today is a new blog day and I thought, let’s not sit around and cry about the mind-boggling election of Donald Trump (insert cry face emoji.) Lets explore all the exciting things I did last week and kinda move on from all the drama; because reading about the life of a small time blogger is quite distracting right?

QUICK NOTE: For those of you wondering what’s happened to the bloody blog – well, London is an exciting, amusing and crazy new place but it’s pretty exhausting and although I’ve read a hella number of books, I kind of want to push the boundaries of this blog and write a little more about my life here in London. It should still be primarily bookish but I just want to share a little more about my life here in London. Without delay, here’s what I’ve been up to! 

Cocktails at Somerset House

On Saturday afternoon one of my loveliest long-time friends @HopeCami came to visit. After visiting Wagamama’s for a well-deserved catch-up (GIVEE me all the R A M E N,) we trekked towards the London Eye to take a number of touristy shots. We gave up though at Somerset house and spent an eye-watering amount of money on cocktails. (If you do go, The Somerset is one of the most perfect cocktails I’ve ever tried – so go try it!)

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Walks in Greenwich Park

I’ve mentioned it maybe 100000000 times; but I recently moved to Greenwich and it is just the most beautiful place. Leanne, (another brilliant friend who I missed a hella load in Stoke) and I went for an early morning walk and it was sublime. This photo doesn’t have a filter; it was honestly perfect. (Plus hot-chocolates were pretty fantastic too!)

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Having my own kitchen (yaaaas) 

Basically I can now make the most delicious breakfasts each and every single morning; (then add mouth-watering filters and post them to instagram cause I’m that cool) . But seriously getting our own kitchen was a serious deal breaker. There might be fewer people to deny needing to wash up but it’s much better than the soul-destroying moment when going to cook and there being NO GODDAMN SAUCEPANS.

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Greenwich Food Market 

You guys, if you live anywhere near Greenwich you have to try this out, seriously. The range of food from different countries/cuisines/diets (gluten-free anyone?) is incredibly. Plus there are so many vegetarian and vegan options T was pretty damn happy.

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Getting back into Instagram 

This one coincided with moving to London. I have very, very fond memories of living in Stoke on Trent but after 5 years there I struggled to photograph it in any other light than it was kinda sucking the life out of me. Moving to London means I’m constantly whipping out my camera and taking photographs, and posting them on the ole instagram. I’m still getting a feel for it but if you fancy following me you can find me at @littlebookblog1!

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So there you have it; my first week commencing style post? I’m not sure what I’ll call them in the coming weeks and I’m pretty sure I want them to come out on a Monday but once again we’ll see. Let me know if you enjoyed this – I would love to make them very book related but I don’t know how easy that will be. But I’ll stop withering – and chin up about Donald everyone. It’s only four years? (hits head on table.)

WIN TICKETS TO STYLIST LIVE: With My Little Book Blog

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Helllo readers, something really exciting for you today! It’s only two weeks until Stylist live, Stylist Magazine’s four day event in October and there are going to be some pretty wonderful and exciting events happening.

On the Thursday Salman Rushdie & Emma Cline will be battling it out in a super exciting Q+A session! Literary Legend vs 2016 hottest debut author; sounds pretty fabby right? Also on the 15th of October will be one of my favourite authors the brilliantly candid feminist writer Caitlin Moran (*Fangirls*) and she’ll be sharing all her thoughts on female sexuality – if you are yet to read either of her books ‘How to be a woman’ or ‘How to build a girl,’ you are seriously missing out. Her writing is just, perfection.

Other exciting highlights include Nina Stibbe reading an excerpt from her book ‘Man at the Helm,’ an award nominated novel which will be followed by a question and answer session and award-winning singer Laura Mvula will be performing an acoustic set which I think will be stunning. Gah this is not an event to miss.

As well as all of this there are plenty of foodie bits to experience, I for one will not be missing Thomasina Miers  showing how to make incredible Mexican tapas – give me all the foods; and there are plenty of fashion and beauty tit-bits if that’s more your bag. I’ll be there for bookish bits, and fan girling over Moran.

The exciting news is that Stylist magazine are offering My Little Book Blog readers the chance to win Stylist Live tickets! *cheers!* The first ten to visit this linkkk  http://po.st/Mh0A8x and enter the code QUILLS will win tickets to one of the days of the event! If you’re in the first ten you will be able to select how many tickets and the date that you would like to attend. You can see the daily schedule here! 

There is also the option for to purchase additional daily talks and workshops from our inspirational speakers if takes your fancy! (MORAN! MORAN! MORAN!– okay I’ll stop now.) But seriously this is a fantastic prize, GOOD LUCK LOVELIES.

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Down and Out in Paris and London: George Orwell

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Afternoon readers, another 101 things in 1001 days post but also a book review. Since becoming more of an avid reader I have continued to manage avoiding reading many of the ‘classic’ pieces of literature. I’ve always been one to pick more contemporary writers and books and this has become more so because of my review requests page. However, when writing my list of things to do I thought it might be beneficial to me as a reader to sit down and read a number of classics. I did a little research and listed down a number to try so there will be a number of these reviews in the coming month. Today’s came to both ease me in and so I could read more from George Orwell. Although I enjoyed 1984 it hasn’t stuck with me as a book I need to read again I was intrigued to read more from the famous author. Thank goodness I did because this has just lodged itself in my top ten list of books. Let me transport you to the slums of Paris and London.

George Orwell’s vivid memoir of his time living among the desperately poor and destitute, Down and Out in Paris and London is a moving tour of the underworld of society from the author of 1984, published with an introduction by Dervla Murphy in Penguin Modern Classics. ‘You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them.’ Written when Orwell was a struggling writer in his twenties, it documents his ‘first contact with poverty’. Here, he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor – sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses of last resort, working as a dishwasher in Paris’s vile ‘Hôtel X’, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, living alongside tramps, a star-gazing pavement artist and a starving Russian ex-army captain. Exposing a shocking, previously-hidden world to his readers, Orwell gave a human face to the statistics of poverty for the first time – and in doing so, found his voice as a writer.

One word to describe this book is grubby although that wouldn’t come close to convey the lyrical writing style of this wonderful book. The book follows Orwell as he struggles to find his feet in the back streets of firstly Paris and in the second part of the book also London. Largely autobiographic the book documents Orwell living in the bowels of a number of different hotels in Paris. Sweating over the hot stoves and desperately washing pots and pans for his superiors we get to visit poverty from a real life perspective. We learn about the lack of hygiene in the smartest of Paris hotels and the everyday poverty that Orwell faced, often both starving and exhausted. The writing is beautifully written, both romantic and utterly gritty I was immediately transported to the dirty soiled hotels of Paris.

The characters are incredibly well built, Boris is the star of the first part of the book that focuses on Paris. He leaps from the page both in his speech and the way in which Orwell describes him, but no matter who we come into contact with along the way Orwell gives us so much detail you cannot help but be transported to the poverty stricken streets. The second part of the book takes us to the dreary roads of London where Orwell intermingles with the tramps of the city and tells a similar story. However the book is lively and Orwell describes the camaraderie of the two cities with a bohemian style of love and freedom. The writing style is dark but humorous, from the descriptions of the grimy sharing of rooms with a vivid number of characters to the boarding houses and homeless hostels named spikes in London. Although gloomier in London the tales are none the less both interesting and informative. I have never read a book quite so good at describing the atmosphere of poverty, hunger , dirt and dismay with so much hope and understanding.

We also often get a philosophical side to the writing, often razor sharp and riddled with humour which is rather surprising seeing the desperate situation of the author and the people he finds himself in the company of. The book is written as though Orwell was alive and well now, telling us these stories of characters such as Bozo the street screever or pavement artist in the most destitute of situations and yet so hopeful for the future. Or Paddy the tramp who even when suffering with the most stomach turning of hunger refuses to steal a bottle of milk from a doorstep. It is quite a wonderful way of telling a tale and on the train to Milton Keynes I became utterly submerged in the story from the very beginning.

Overall this is a tale of poverty, hunger, destitution and pain but it is a wonderfully honest and uplifting tale. Orwell brings these people and stories to life with such beautifully honest prose that I almost felt the stony floors of the London spikes and the drunken tales from the Parisian bars. A stunner of a book and one I cannot wait to read again.

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For the love of reading…

So, in the spirit of my recent blog statistics I decided I wanted to write a blog post in reflection of this recent accomplishment for mylittlebookblog. I know I say this a lot but I never expected to keep this blog going a year let alone making it this far. I think confidence in my writing played a big part and I think a deep panic that people wouldn’t enjoy my writing was another. Skip forward, nineteen months (that is such a long time) and this blog is my second job. I spend all my time thinking about reading, and books, new authors, who I owe reviews, who I can do guest posts with. I read on the bus, in the bath, on the train, in the morning, evening, I spend days reading at the weekend, my life is spent with my head in a book. I remember once when I was younger I told myself I needed to throw myself into the real world and stop being so obsessed with the fantasy world. I am a terrible daydreamer and as a child I used to just drift off imagining pretend events and happenings. I must admit I did get a bit of a reputation as a ditsy airhead but it was because I lived in a different world, one that I now as an adult find in all the books that I read.

I wanted to talk about books that meant a lot to me when I first discovered reading. There were lots to choose from and I conclude that there were four writers that ultimately made me the reader I am.

1) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes made my childhood. I was a big reader but I was made to read comprehensive texts which were incredibly boring and made me very sulky. When I could finally pick my own books to read I stumbled across the Hound of the Baskervilles and a number of other texts by this wonderful author. It’s fair to say I was hooked, even now I can say he is the founder of my desperation to find more books like his. Sherlock Holmes is also my ultimate book crush; he is the most wonderfully in-depth and exciting character and if I could spend one day, no just one hour with a character from a book, it would be him. We would get coffee in London and people watch as the clouds blustered by. We would talk about life and love and death and I would fall completely in love with him. It would be terribly British and it would be my pleasure. Sometimes I take a minute to wonder what my life would be life if I hadn’t let curiosity get the better of me and begged my year six teacher to let me read it. Let’s maybe not think about that!

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2) Jacqueline Wilson: Now I’m older I’m not a big fan of Wilson’s work, but as a child her books really spoke to me. I loved how she spoke about more taboo issues and real life events. She didn’t shy away from it and in the bubble of nice children’s books they spoke to me on another level. I wasn’t a shy child but I found her characters incredibly relatable and the way she wrote was easy for me learn from. I learnt from her that books could speak of feelings and pain in a deeper way than I had read before, although it may have also been because my mother was not to happy about me reading her books and getting the wrong idea! Now I know that her books don’t touch on the words that other authors do, but at the age that her books became a permanent feature in my life I learnt a lot. I even had a little Sylvanian Families Rabbit that I used to carry around just like Andrea did in The Suitcase Kid

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3) Roald Dahl: Roald Dahl I’m sure is a big one for lots of readers of all ages. Mine came in the form of the book ‘The Witches.’ My dad used to read to me all the time and Roald Dahl was always a favourite; his stories were magnificently wicked for children’s books and I fell for them like you would not believe. It wasn’t until we read The Witches together that I realised what a hold books could have over people. It is not an overreaction to say I was terrified of the witches; I was so scared that I didn’t sleep for weeks and weeks. We used have to get up early before school to read it, or after school because if we read in the evening there would be tears at bedtime. Roald Dahl taught me that books could make you feel things that you hadn’t experienced before and even now when I see The Witches on a bookshelf or in the library I feel my heart beat a little faster

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4) J.K Rowling: This author is one that I continue to go back to whenever I can and I will forever be a loyal fan. Harry Potter I am sure is a big part of a lot peoples childhoods and the fan base of this series is ridiculous but for every single reader it means something different. It started an unstoppable love of reading. I stayed up all night and I would fight my Dad for the chance to read the book. When people ruined the books for me for me by spoiling it by telling me bits that had happened before I had to chance to read them, I howled; it changed reading from a hobby to everything for me. I put it off for so many years, and when I sat down I realised that books are pretty much everything for me. I love all of her books and will remain a dedicated fan for probably all of my reading life. Her writing is wonderful but it’s where she came from and her refusal to give up that has continued my drive to get my foot into the publishing industry.

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So there you go; a little bit of me and where my love of reading started. I will be a reader for the rest of my life and I will forever be incredibly proud of that: Always

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