Thirty Thousand Streets

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm back in Victoria. for the second week, and the third time I've worked here in total. Victoria is weird though. Busy and bustling, yet ultimately hard to attribute any kind of personality to.

Victoria represents a kind of architectural pile-up. If you suffered from acute tunnel vision, and were dropped, blindfolded, in the middle of this no-man's-land and told to orient yourself in time and space, depending on where your gaze alighted, you could probably infer yourself to have arrived in any decade out of the last twenty or so, which I guess is true of much of London, just much more acute here, where each and every building seems to be participating in an 'every-edifice-for-itself' slug-fest with its neighbours.

Victoria is dominated by the huge train station in the centre of course, and the more out-flung coach station round the corner, and these two seem to dictate much of the 'personality' of Victoria such as it is, with the exterior of the train staion having much of the flavour on the inside, with the same phalanx of anodyne coffee shops and sandwich bars clone-tooled up and down the length of its bustling pavements. And in truth, it does sometimes feel that there is very little to do in Victoria, other than go and buy a sandwich. Victoria is full of people, but in keeping with its nature as a mass-transit hub, most seem intent on heading somewhere else.

"Why did the chicken go to Victoria" one might ask. "to get to the other side" would be the only possible answer, surely.

That's possibly not the entire story. If musicals are your thing there's Billy Elliot – the musical, and Wicked, but they do almost seem incidental to the area. Bizarrely, the one club I can think of in the area is the London venue of glam Ibiza club Pacha, plonked incongruously in the grey environs of the the bus station. Other than that, you're left with an array of regular-less boozers, where the clientele imbibe liquids between modes of transport in a sticky-tabled purgatory, and the odd Pizza Express, frequented by tourists.

Step off, into the hinterland of side streets and there are some moderately interesting buildings, but even here there seems precious little incentive to linger, rather than press on. Victoria is so impersonal it feels almost incidental to itself, and you'd probably have to head to a motorway flyover, to find a place less conducive to the pleasant passage of time. Ultimately, so long as I'm working, I feel justified in being here, but not a moment longer.

No matter though. Lunchtime approacheth, and with it the big decision of the day, in effect: what sandwich to eat.

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