Walk The Lines
The London Underground Overground
A London obsessive sets out to capture the city once and for all – by walking the entire Tube system overground...
For years I'd dreamed of writing a book about London, a city I loved and which had been my home for over a decade. But how to find a new way of covering such a well-worn topic? I knew it had to be a walking book - that's the only way to really engage with a place. Then one day, staring at the Underground map, the answer hit me: walk the route of every Tube line, at street level. It was a joy to do: 403 miles of observation, eavesdropping and musing.
There was the man in Walthamstow on his mobile: ‘It'll be an hour and a half before I'm in Romford, Matilda - if you're going to have a bath, have a bath now'. The van near the Edgware Road: ‘Stephen Fry Plumbing and Heating Ltd'. I learned that London cabbies traditionally do their first fare for free, that James I kept elephants in St James's Park (allowed a gallon of wine per day each to get through the English winter) and that the Monument killed more people than the Great Fire.
More than one reviewer has said that if you like Bill Bryson, you'll like this. That's very kind of them - all I know is that if just a tenth of the fun I had researching the book comes through on the page, it might be worth a read.
‘Endlessly fascinating ... Mason triumphantly succeeds.' The Spectator
‘An extraordinary odyssey.' Robert Elms, BBC London
‘Mason rediscovers the Underground.' The Times
‘Fascinating and entertaining ... Mason may have made himself the Bill Bryson of our capital city.' The Bookseller
‘Crammed with delightful facts ... a constantly fascinating journey.' Shortlist
‘Awesome.' Shaun Keaveney, BBC 6Music
‘I was charmed by the book's profusion of insightful anecdotes and fascinating trivia.' Walk Magazine
‘This engaging book puts its best foot forward with fascinating detail.' The Independent
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A Rubik’s cube has more combinations than light travels inches in a century. This is my favourite illustration of how a very small number of factors can produce an absurdly complicated situation. A silly little toy, with only three squares in each of its three dimensions. How can that get complicated? Well, as anyone who's ever tried to solve one just by guessing will tell you, it gets very complicated. The number of possible combinations is 43,252,003,274,489,856,000. Forget billions - that's 43 quintillion and change. (In fact the cube's manufacturers just said ‘billions' in their advertising, figuring that no one would know what a quintillion was. It's a billion billion.) The number of inches light travels in a century, meanwhile, is a mere 37,165,049,856,000,000,000. Or thereabouts.