This week I’ve chosen to review two of the books in the Penguin Lines series: Richard Mabey’s A Good Parcel of English Soil and Peter York’s The Blue Riband. Each takes their line (the Piccadilly Line for York and the Metropolitan Line for Mabey) and explores it with a historian’s (and in Mabey’s case, a naturalist’s) eyes, packing their slim volumes with details and data as well as a layering of nostalgic romance.
York comments on Piccadilly Circus being the centre of the world: “It was the village green of the largest empire ever known”, before going on to note that despite this, “in a typically British way, it was never all that. Scale, planning and architectural quality all look completely pony and ramshackle compared with any triumphalist Euro-capital of the period.” His is a look at the tube line as a means of tracking Londoner’s aspirations and desire to enter ever inwards into the city. Continue reading