Thursday, 31 May 2012

Streets Ahead


Streets Ahead is the occasional column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker





"Will I see a ghost?"

"What will we see?"

Ah, the double barrelled ghost walk question.

Short answer to the first question: some people have. And their cameras have seen even more. We're regularly sent photographs that clearly depict "presences" that the photographer swears "was not there when I pointed the camera in that direction".

The second question is the more interesting one. And when we answer it we never give a shopping list of "sights (or sites) that you'll see."

Don't give a shopping list because it makes no allowance whatsoever for the guide, for the guide's working his or her magic.

The guide is the demiurge. (Gonna do a post one of these days on that very matter - just how apt that word is in this context.) The demiurge. The artificer. The guide "creates" the London that you see. A hapless, clueless tourist - or indeed a Londoner in that state - can be standing fifteen feet away from a London Walker and looking at exactly the same thing the walker is looking at. But the hc tourist (or Londoner) won't be able to "see" what the London Walker "sees".

The difference, of course, is the guide. The guide is the demiurge, the artificer of what the walker sees.

Usually of course it's a matter of the guide directing the eye and the mind's eye. Fine-tuning the gaze - telling you exactly where to look and what to look for. And blossoming the mind's eye with the story that "informs"* what you're looking at.

But you know something, sometimes it's just a simple matter of position. Something very special will be visible from one side of a street but you can't see it at all if you're a mere fifteen feet away - on the other side of the street.

Knowing where to take you - and where to stand. It's often a very finely judged matter. And it makes all the difference.

A case in point? Well, we get this view on one of our ghost walks. (Pretty easy to make do with this if you don't happen to see a ghost "on the night".)

"From the mid-Victorian suspension bridge two great views can be seen: on one side Buckingham Palace on an elevation; on the other the Horse Guards, the War Office and Whitehall Court, rising in a distant mass and conveying an impression, not anticipated by any architect, of some fabulous Eastern city."

Wow.

*It's worth taking the full measure of that word "informs" - "forms from within". 


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