qatsi (qatsi) wrote,


Book Review: Do Not Pass Go - From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair, by Tim Moore
I salvaged this book from rosamicula as it headed into her own personal Old Kent Road of unwanted volumes. Tim Moore's entertaining study of the metropolis owes more to Louis Theroux than Peter Ackroyd.

As I child I found it difficult to contemplate that a Monopoly board could have streets other than those of London on it, let alone that the game might not be British. Moore gives us an introductory lesson on the history of the game from a West Yorkshire Archive centre (the home of John Waddington, who originally licensed the UK and Empire rights to the game) before proceeding around the board. Rather than literally proceeding from one square to the next, Moore uses the device of the throw of dice to dictate his progress, ensuring variation from one set to the next. At each stage Moore considers three ages: the history of the streets (which in most cases date from the seventeenth century or thereabouts), the state of the streets in the 1930s, when a Waddington executive chose the streets, and their place in contemporary (2001-2) London. As well as the streets and stations, Moore also selects representatives of Jail and the utilities (but curiously omits Income Tax and Super Tax, Chance and Community Chest), and even just about manages some Free Parking.

A particular stream of bile is reserved for one Harold Clunn, a name with which I am not familiar but who seems to have been the 1930s equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson functioning also as an anti-Betjeman or anti-Pevsner, determined to "improve" London by tearing down its elderly edifices and replace them with widened thoroughfares and dual carriageways, prostrate temples to the motor vehicle. The section on Euston Road makes a salutary comparison between the fates of Euston and St Pancras stations. Yet Moore also points out that the current trend seems to be to preserve everything, including perhaps some rather less meritorious structures.

With little choice on the content, Moore presents a quintessentially British view of the streets today, many a little on the grubby side and having seen better times, but still maintaining self-respect. It's an interesting insight into something that is a far greater distortion than the Beck Tube map, but still (at least for those old enough not to have experienced the infinite variety of regional and themed Monopoly available these days) an inevitable London icon.
Tags: books, london
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.