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Thursday, February 7, 2013
Ever wondered what it would be like to walk the London Underground lines at street level?
Born in the Midlands in 1971, Mark Mason moved to London when he was 20. Over the next 13 years he sold Christmas cards in Harrods, made radio programmes for the BBC and busked outside Eric Clapton gigs at the Royal Albert Hall. He also published three novels, several books of non-fiction, and wrote for publications as diverse as The Spectator and Four Four Two. He continues to do some of these things, though has now defected to Suffolk, where he lives with his partner and son.
Q. How did you come up with the idea to walk every London Underground station at street level?
A. I wanted to write a book about London, and knew I wanted it to be a walking book - it’s the only way to experience a truly great city. Couldn’t work out the route, though - until one day I found myself looking at the Tube map…
Q. Which Tube line do you enjoy walking the most?
A. It’s funny, that was the question in my mind as I started, and the question everyone always asks - it was only as I did the walks that I realised that almost every Tube line goes through such varied areas of London, and so none of them have ‘characters’ as such. My favourite station - one I’d never seen before - was Barons Court - a bit like the famous brown terracotta ones by Leslie Green (Covent Garden, Maida Vale, etc), but a touch paler. Now it’s got a posh deli in it as well as the station - one of the most beautiful buildings in London
Q. What is your favourite sight from each route?
A. So many to choose from - I loved overhearing things, such as the guy in Walthamstow (on the Victoria Line walk) on his mobile: ‘It’s gonna be an hour and a half before I’m in Romford, Matilda - if you’re gonna have a bath, have a bath now’. And the notices: one near Acton Town (Piccadilly Line) - ‘Have you seen this dog? Answers to Zelda. But it’s deaf.’ Also the human drama of the city - at Paddington station I saw a man heading for the Heathrow Express carrying nothing but a single red rose.
Q. Can you tell us an interesting London trivia?
A. Piccadilly gets its name from those big ruffed collars you see Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I wearing - they were called ‘pickadils’ - the tailor who made his fortune from making them built a mansion that became known as ‘Piccadilly Hall’ - it was where Piccadilly now starts, and the name transferred to the whole road
Q. London Underground has just had its 150th anniversary; can you tell us an interesting fact about the system?
A. Despite the fact that there are 269 stations, only one of them has a single-syllable name (Bank)
To get more of Mark’s thoughts, follow him on Twitter at @WalkTheLinesLDN or click on the link below to see his blog