of London’s Streets registered as eccentric or bizarre, has started to take on something of a mythical quality.
After a light sprinkling of some more historical, literary and architectural facts, Dr Yoseloff instructs me to move on to the second location, asking me to note on my way the site of the poet Thomas Chatterton’s suicide by arsenic poisoning.
Location 2 is Waterhouse Square, the courtyard of the Prudential Assurance Building, where Dickens wrote the Pickwick Papers, and here I am urged to take a seat, stop the act of walking and listen to two writers discussing it.
Merlin Coverley claims that ‘in cities that are increasingly hostile to the pedestrian, it inevitably becomes an act of subversion.’ Interesting. Sitting on my bench in the sun, I start to feel a bit of a rebel. Rebecca Solnit asserts that ‘the rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts.’
Is it my imagination or am I starting to feel my unconscious being strangely seduced by a slow sowing of ideas and images, and the hypnotic qualities of the Doctor’s voice?
Location 3 is Greville Street in Farringdon. As the rather more mechanical voice of my iPhone guides me there, I wonder if the beat of my stride, which
— owing to the presence of some stethoscopic Sennheiser headphones — is booming in my ears along with my breathing, will soon engender a passage through a series of thoughts that might turn out to be the beginnings of a poem.
I try to banish self-consciousness and tune into Dr Y’s voice telling me to ignore the long lines of jewellery shops whose baubles are winking at me to left and right and to concentrate instead on weeds. As I halt opposite the archway at number 38, she asks me to ‘Look at the buddleia growing out of a crack in the wall.’
Now, I cannot for the life of me see any buddleia, nor for that matter, any crack in any wall. I guess that in the time since Dr Yosselof researched her tour, some deeply unliterary structural surveyor has ordered the removal of the plant and the filling of the crack.
However, perhaps more important, I consider, is the idea of the buddleia. And for a moment, I wonder whether in an act of benign manipulation, the Doctor might be forcing me to use my imagination here for the first time today, by deliberately asking me to observe a plant that isn’t there.
She asks me whether I can find a poem in the wildness and tenacity of these ‘unofficial’ plants. I can’t. But I think the weeds might have seeded something: things start to look more promising as I move on to Location 4.