diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 08, 2017

I'm now just over halfway through my Herbert Dip project.

If you remember, that's my ludicrous plan to visit all 52 of the boroughs proposed by the Herbert Commission at the birth of Greater London. These were rejigged and slimmed down after consultation to create the 33 boroughs we know today. But I'm going to the 52 that never were, at a rate of one a week, and then writing you a report on each.

To randomise the whole affair I matched each borough to a playing card, as detailed in a table I posted back in January (so won't post again). At the start of the project I shuffled my pack of special Millennium Dome playing cards, and am turning over the top card each week to discover where I'm going next. I don't look at the next card until I've come back from my previous visit. I have no idea what order the remaining cards are in.

This map shows all the 'Herbert boroughs' I've visited so far.

The pattern may not look especially random, but that's the joy of random selection - every possible pattern is equally likely.

Thus far I've covered almost all of outer northwest London, a fair amount of the centre and a large solid block down the eastern side. But my pack of cards has yet to send me anywhere in outer east or southeast London, or to a significant wedge of the southwest. Even the card I know is coming next isn't going to help with geographical spread - it merely fills in a gap rather than branching out somewhere fresh.

(If we're playing Blockbusters, there's a yellow chain from west to sort-of east, but also a white chain from east to sort-of west, so I don't think we can claim either player's won)

In terms of modern boroughs I've wiped out Hillingdon, Ealing, Brent, Newham, Greenwich, Sutton and half a dozen others, but I've still not touched Richmond, Kingston, Croydon, Barking & Dagenham and Havering.

In terms of playing cards, so far I've turned over all the 3s, all the 6s, all the 7s and all the Queens, but I've yet to turn over a single 2. I've also dealt eight of the Clubs, seven of the Diamonds and eight of the Spades, but only four of the Hearts (which is one reason so little of south London is covered).

3 5 6 7 8 9 J Q
A 3 4 6 7 Q K
3 6 7 Q
3 4 5 6 7 8 10 Q

On turning over each card and discovering the next borough, the tough decision is what sort of visit I'm going to make (or what my 'angle' is going to be). I try to do something a bit different each time.

Thus far I've walked a bus route, hunted for blue plaques, visited parks, climbed hills, walked a trunk road, spotted election posters, followed the canals, toured bus stop Ms, tracked down old street signs, followed a river, walked on top of a sewer, traced a boundary, picked highlights from a museum, circumnavigated a football stadium, explored a conservation area, walked round an airport, hunted down mildly interesting places, dropped in on a development zone and been to a suburb with a silly name.

I worry that I'll run out of original ideas before I'm finished, but hopefully I'll continue to think up more... and of course it's OK to repeat some if the location permits.

I'm also aware that at least 51 times out of 52 I'll be writing about somewhere you don't live, which could be dull. That's also part of the joy of the project, however, because if you live in London I must be writing about your bit at least once. Some so-called London websites never write about Uxbridge, Barking and Penge because their remit is geographically blinkered. My playing cards force me to consider the suburbs as well as the built-up centre, which has got to be a good thing overall.

With 27 cards dealt and 25 to go, I hope I can keep up the momentum until the end of the year.

Thank goodness our capital remains a deeply fascinating city. As I hope my blog proves, there's always somewhere in London you've never been, something in London you've never seen and some fact about London you'd never previously known.

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