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12 Jan 2012

Do Not Pass Go

I’m a sucker for books about London (and as I have just written one myself, I am hoping I am not alone in this – my book on London Place Names comes out in April). A few years ago I laughed like a drain all the way through Keith Lowe’s Tunnel Vision, about a young man who makes a drunken bet that he can visit all the London tube stations in the course of a day. Tension is added by the fact that he is getting married on Saturday and if he loses the bet he also loses his honeymoon tickets to the Caribbean.

More recently it has been Do Not Pass Go by Tim Moore, a sort of random social history of London based on visiting all the properties on the Monopoly board. From Tim’s encounter with a transvestite prostitute at King’s Cross to his wife’s self-sacrificing stay in a surreal student hostel off the humble (in Monopoly terms) Old Kent Road (she is supposed to be in Claridge’s, which of course is in top-priced Mayfair), it conveys an intense love of London, along with some wonderfully quirky facts. I didn’t know, for example, that before fleeing to Moscow the spies Burgess and Maclean had a last cup of tea at the RAC Club in Pall Mall; that Napoleon’s state coach was once on display in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly (why??) and 800,000 people went to see it; or that a large part of London’s electricity supply would be cut off if a certain pipe in Chelsea Wharf got blocked with leaves from the Thames. (The book was published ten years ago, so that last bit may no longer be true – don’t panic.)

London geeks should flock to this book; if you happen to be a Monopoly geek as well, so much the better.

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