With the advent of Google Street View, I've realised I never need to go outside again. Now I can blog about the rest of London from home, using interactive geo-snoop technology, and hopefully you'll never notice the difference. So here's my report on The Cut, a road near Waterloo that I've never ever walked down. Thank you Google, your privacy-busting spycam has saved me hours of effort.
This ancient South Bank street starts at the crossroads outside Southwark station. The tube station squats beneath a railway viaduct, like quarter of a flying saucer, in front of which are scattered a random selection of pedestrians with blurred out faces. On the opposite corner is a blocky glass office block on stilts, on top of which is plonked what looks like an enormous shiny cereal packet. But we're not going that way, we're heading west towards a very ordinary apartment block, past The Ring public house "where boxing started in 1910". Follow the yellow line up onto the pavement, and let's be off.
Three men in safety helmets wander past the entrance to Costcutter, one checking his phone, the other two deep in conversation. The door to Southwark College stands ajar, its bland blue foyer jutting out beneath two hanging baskets dangling from a lamppost. A stern-looking driver, standing in the road beside the door of his black minicab, stares with defiance as the bug-eyed GoogleCam speeds by. Arms crossed, he knows his image has been captured for world-wide distribution and there's not a damned thing he can do about it.
The road narrows past the Anchor & Hope public house, as the shops head steadily upmarket. An appropriately-named florist, a tiled green fish restaurant and a bespoke men's tailoring service each hint that a cultured metrosexual clientele stalks this sapling-lined avenue. It's true. That startling high-meshed building opposite isn't a multi-storey car park, it's the Young Vic theatre. Look carefully behind the orange neon sign above the entrance and you can still see the shopfront nameplate of Wilson Brothers, the family butchers around whose premises the theatre was recreated.
Past Short Street and the Young Vic's terraced patio restaurant, there's off-road parking where a bottle green Honda (registration RV52 FLB) has paused awhile. Its owner has no idea that the GoogleVan rode by while she was shopping, and that her car's identity and location have been compromised for all to see. A man in a blue short-sleeved shirt crouches in the doorway of the Red & White Laundrette, while inside a grey-haired lady waits patiently on a plastic chair for her laundry to spindry. Zoom in, you'll see.
The street's second zebra crossing, equally untroubled by traffic, permits easy passage from The Windmill pavement cafe to the South Bank Grocery. Two policemen in unflattering cycle helmets stand awkwardly outside Evans bike shop, their silver machines propped up beside (but not attached to) a pair of secure metal hoops. Further west and that's no mid-80s secondary school, it's the impenetrable gridlike flank of the National Theatre Studio. Meanwhile a queue of taxis waits patiently at the traffic lights, half vanished beneath a pixellated blur...
(And sorry, but the last stretch of The Cut doesn't officially exist. The Google Streetcar turned left at the traffic lights and never continued along the final 50 yards to Waterloo Road. So I can't pretend to tell you about that bit. Damn, it looks like I will have to continue going out after all...)