I got lost in London this week. It didn't bother me in the slightest. I wasn't late for anything, so there was no stress, just trying to catch a tube train home. I wandered away away from the area around Victoria coach station in search of Sloane Square. My sister used to live around there in the 1990s, so I thought I knew the area. But a few wrong turns and I had no idea where I was going. A few more random turns and I regained my bearings and eventually emerged near Sloane Square station, and had one of those 'I never knew that road led here' epiphanies common to anyone who does any extensive walking around the old city.
I don't carry an A-Z anymore, though I always used to and I really still should. It is a thing of beauty. It's the first thing I recommend any visitor to London should buy. Get it, put it in your bag and set off walking; then stop, pore over it, work out where you are, and set off again. It's almost impoosible to get lost, but more usefully, when you do get lost - and there is something great about being lost in London - it helps you get back on track. It also has a tube map on the back, so it really is the only thing you need.
I don't know about you but when I'm hacked off about something, I occasionally have bright ideas, or grumble about how something should be done about it. Then someone gives me a glass of wine and I forget about it. What I would never do is what Phylis did. She walked the length and breadth of the city and with the help of a friend and draughtsman, James Duncan. This is in the age before satellite imaging or aerial photography. It was all done on foot and by sight. It took a year. She walked 3000 miles, 18 hours a day and chronicled 23,000 streets. She get lost each and every day, but made note of where she had been, what streets she saw, and how they linked up.
So, here's to getting lost. And here's to Phylis Pearsall. Google maps is all well and good, sat nav useful in certain circumstances, but the beautifully designed A-Z is indispensable, and it never runs out of power or batteries.
Dan - Friday