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The first time I saw a bird’s eye view of London that wasn’t a street plan in the A-Z, was in a weighty and expensive tome called ‘The London Photographic Atlas’. I remember leafing through the pages of a torn and finger-marked display copy in Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road. Studying the route I had taken through Mitcham earlier in the day, I was amazed by how different it looked from the air, and also by the wider context – the realisation that, had I walked in a different direction, I would have ended up in a familiar and yet, in my mind, completely disconnected part of the Capitol. I’ve been exploring the city since I was 18 and I still have only the vaguest idea of how certain parts of it join together.
Nowadays I walk everywhere in London which is one way to learn how it all links together. For years I allowed the Tube map to dictate the shape of London. This is terribly misleading. I went to the City on Friday morning and realised that in that area I navigate by the dome of St Pauls – pretty much like Doctor Johnson would have done, I suppose.