H/T to Eric Kirkland for the link.
December 2, 2013
October 30, 2013
[Karl Marx] was also an unemployed professor, a scholar in the German tradition with a first-rate brain, a vast depth of learning and considerable obscurity of thought. Of his intellect and scholarship there can be no doubt at all. He knew many languages and had read widely in many subjects. A very learned man indeed, he was admirably fitted for the life of a German university. Marx’s complete absorption in his philosophy, history and economics was quite typical of the sort of professor he should by right have become. That mixture of scholarship, vagueness, poverty and practical inexperience would have graced a chair at Heidelberg or Bonn. But for the death in 1840 of Frederick William IV, a man of strictly orthodox views on religion, Marx might have had an academic career. Barred from this, however, as an atheist, he had no class to teach, no pupils from whom he might have learned. There is a sense, of course, in which a professor lives apart from the world. But his duties, even in the mid-nineteenth century, involved some contact with other people. The most professorial of German professors would have examinations to set and appointments to keep. Sessions of Senate and Faculty might give him scope for eloquence or intrigue, and he would find for himself the need to compromise, concede and persuade. Howbeit painfully and slowly, the professor comes to know something of administration and finance. But this was the practical knowledge which Marx was denied. All the experience he had was in his own home, where his failure was catastrophic for his wife and family. Of his children some died of slow starvation and two committed suicide. Retaining and increasing all his professional learning, he became more purely theoretical than even professors are allowed to be. Of the difficulties of organizing human society he knew practically nothing. There was in fact no human society — no province or city, no school or club — of which he could be said to have been a member. His whole life was bounded by the printed page.
C. Northcote Parkinson, “Internal Contradiction”, Left Luggage, 1967.
September 27, 2013
The Vikings announced earlier today that quarterback Christian Ponder’s rib injury is severe enough that he won’t be playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend. In his place, backup Matt Cassel will get the start:
Cassel, who is replacing an injured Christian Ponder (ribs), will try to steer the Vikings towards their first win of the season, and comes into a situation that few expected a month ago. The Vikings are 0-3 and on the verge of their season imploding, if it already hasn’t. With issues at QB, offensive line, and all over the defense, the Vikings have stumbled badly out of the gate, and they really need a spark.
Will Cassel provide that? It remains to be seen. This is the reason Cassel was signed in the off season. Last year, the Vikings had serious deficiencies at the backup position, as was evidenced by the tire fire that was Joe Webb in the Wild Card playoff game against Green Bay. As a starter, Cassel 29-33. In his career, he has a completion percentage of just over 58%, with 82 TD passes and 57 interceptions.
There’s already fan speculation that this is a “designed” play:
Love the people who think Ponder's injury is an elaborate ruse. Like the guy would go along with a pretend injury when career's on the line.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 27, 2013
Update: The cynics are already hard at work:
Only two and a half days until #Vikings fans call for Cassel to be benched and MBT to be the starting QB.
— John Kriesel (@johnkriesel) September 27, 2013
Of course we're not forcing you to watch Matt Cassel because you burned down the first White House, England. That's crazy talk.
— sir broosk (@celebrityhottub) September 27, 2013
September 22, 2013
Almost any Jew can be stateless, but Marx was particularly so — born of alien parents in a frontier region between Germany and France, educated in the Rhineland and in Prussia, a student at Berlin but a graduate of Jena, exiled by the age of thirty-two. Nor was this domicile chosen from any love of England or of anything but safety. He knew next to nothing of the English when he died, preferring to live among German exiles, talking German, thinking in German, and for preference writing in German. He knew of the toiling masses only from blue books and parliamentary reports. We hear nothing of his travels among the Lancashire cotton mills and as little of his talks with the London poor. There is no record of his visiting the coal mines, the docks, or even a public house. He was essentially homeless, offering no loyalty and expecting no aid. And with his scorn went hatred. He despised and loathed his rivals, quarreled with this allies and condemned all sympathizers who deviated even by a little from the doctrine he held to be sacred. Karl Marx had no country.
C. Northcote Parkinson, “Internal Contradiction”, Left Luggage, 1967.
August 5, 2013
I read about the London Necropolis Railway in The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross. I foolishly assumed he’d made it up for the purposes of the story. Not at all:
[Sir Richard] Broun was fascinated by the recently-emerged technology of steam trains. In 1848, Waterloo Station had only just been opened, and the railways themselves were still considered something of a novelty. Broun, along with his partner Richard Sprye, concocted a plan to ease the overcrowding issue with the help of this new invention. Buying up a 1,500 acre site outside Woking, they proposed the creation of a dedicated railway of the dead: a line (serviced by London & Southwest Rail) used for the sole purpose of transporting the deceased from London to ‘Brookwood Cemetery’ for burial.
The railway was inaugurated on 13th November 1854, with its own dedicated platform at Waterloo Station. A timetabled service would transport coffins down at night and mourners by day, delivering them to one of two stations: the Conformist station on Brookwood’s sunny side; or the non-conformist station on its dark north face. To prevent upsetting any delicate Victorian sensibilities, each ‘coffin train’ was divided into classes to separate the dead from their poorer neighbours. Even in death, it seemed, the idea of sharing a carriage with a pauper was anathema.
Until the 1940s it remained a weird London institution, a ghoulish Victorian hangover that resisted time, social change and falling demand. Ultimately, it took the Luftwaffe to close it down: during the heavy bombing raid of 16th April 1941 the Waterloo terminus was obliterated. The LNR had shipped its last cadaver.
H/T to Dave Slater for the link.
May 26, 2013
Mark Steyn on what was top of the issue-sheet for journalists discussing the Woolwich murder and the Swedish “youth” riots:
For the last week Stockholm has been ablaze every night with hundreds of burning cars set alight by “youths.” Any particular kind of “youth”? The Swedish prime minister declined to identify them any more precisely than as “hooligans.” But don’t worry: The “hooligans” and “youths” and men of no Muslim appearance whatsoever can never win because, as David Cameron ringingly declared, “they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values.” Actually, they’ve already gone quite a way toward eroding free speech, as both prime ministers demonstrate. The short version of what happened in Woolwich is that two Muslims butchered a British soldier in the name of Islam and helpfully explained, “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.” But what do they know? They’re only Muslims, not Diversity Outreach Coordinators. So the BBC, in its so-called “Key Points,” declined to mention the “Allahu akbar” bit or the “I”-word at all: Allah who?
Not a lot of Muslims want to go to the trouble of chopping your head off, but when so many Western leaders have so little rattling around up there, they don’t have to. And, as we know from the sob-sister Tsarnaev profiles, most of these excitable lads are perfectly affable, or at least no more than mildly alienated, until the day they set a hundred cars alight, or blow up a school boy, or decapitate some guy. And, if you’re lucky, it’s not you they behead, or your kid they kill, or even your Honda Civic they light up. And so life goes on, and it’s all so “mundane,” in Simon Jenkins’s word, that you barely notice when the Jewish school shuts up, and the gay bar, and the uncovered women no longer take a stroll too late in the day, and the publishing house that gets sent the manuscript for the next Satanic Verses decides it’s not worth the trouble … But don’t worry, they’ll never defeat our “free speech” and our “way of life.”
One in ten Britons under 25 is now Muslim. That number will increase, through immigration, disparate birth rates, and conversions like those of the Woolwich killers, British-born and -bred. Metternich liked to say the Balkans began in the Landstrasse, in southeast Vienna. Today, the Dar al-Islam begins in Wellington Street, in southeast London. That’s a “betrayal” all right, but not of Islam.
May 25, 2013
Here he is again, banging on about his failings, particularly over the Woolwich murder:
On occasions like this I really do feel a bit of an intellectual lightweight, I must say. There am I, stuck in the fuddy-duddy mindset where you see a 25-year old father of a one year old boy being hacked to death with meat cleavers on a busy London street and all you can do is respond with the gut feeling that “This is wrong. This is totally wrong!”
Whereas if I were a bit younger, less reactionary and I’d had a proper educational grounding somewhere serious like the LSE, what I would have realised is that you just can’t judge things like this at face value. Sure, there’s a temptation to dwell on what a terrible way to go it must have been for that poor young man; to think about what his family must be going through — his wife and mother especially, who will surely be re-living his imagined death every day from now on till they die; to get quite angry, even, about the perverted political values and warped mindset that led to this barbaric act — and also about the cultural relativism that helped make it possible. But succumbing to this temptation would, of course, be a serious mistake.
No, if you’re a truly enlightened citizen of the modern world, the correct way to respond is the way all those sophisticated intellectual types on Twitter did. You recognise straightaway that the horror of the murder is just a distraction from the real issue. The real issue being, of course, that this regrettable event was the sadly inevitable consequence of Britain’s racism, intolerance and Islamophobia — as demonstrated by Nick Robinson’s bigoted, ignorant and inflammatory use of that reprehensible “of Muslim appearance” comment on BBC news for which he has since, quite correctly, apologised.
Until, as a society, we learn to face up to our collective responsibility for Drummer Lee Rigby’s death, young men like Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale ought to have every right to go on drawing attention to this rampant injustice in whatever way they deem fit. It is frankly outrageous that in order to make their point they had to resort to the blunt instrument of execution by motor vehicle and butcher’s knife. A truly considerate society would have made public funds available for them to afford some properly functioning automatic weaponry. That way these gallant, oppressed freedom fighters could have made their vibrant and refreshingly direct contribution to our national debate with a lot less fuss and a lot less mess — perhaps preventing the disgraceful public overreaction we have witnessed over the last couple of days, everywhere from the hateful, violent racist English Defence League to the hardcore, fascist right-wing BBC.
May 23, 2013
Brendan O’Neill on yesterday’s brutal murder in Woolwich:
One of the most shocking things about the brutal attack in Woolwich yesterday was the arrogance with which one of the bloodied knifemen claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims. In what sounded like a South London accent, this British-seeming, casually dressed young man bizarrely spoke as if he were a representative of the ummah. He talked about “our lands” and what “our people” have to go through every day. He presumably meant Iraqis and Afghanis, or perhaps the broader global “Muslim family”.
How can a couple of men so thoroughly convince themselves that they speak for all Muslims, to the extent that they seriously believe their savage and psychotic attack on a man in the street is some kind of glorious act of Islamic resistance? Perhaps because they live in a country in which claiming to speak “on behalf of” a community, even if you’ve never been elected by or even seriously talked to that community, is taken seriously. A country where one’s identity, one’s racial or religious or cultural make-up, now counts for everything, certainly for more than what one does or what one believes. A country in which the politics of identity, the narrow and deeply divisive communal politics of shared cultural traits, has been privileged over all other kinds of politics.
The Woolwich murderer’s impromptu claim to be acting on behalf of the grievances of Muslims everywhere echoes the statements made by the 7/7 bombers. “Your democratically elected governments continue to perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world”, said chief bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan. “My people” — what extraordinary arrogance and self-righteousness. Did Khan ever talk to “his people” or win a mandate from them? Of course not, no more than the knife-wielding nutter in Woolwich engaged with the inhabitants of what he thinks of as “his lands”. Rather, in this era in which any old fool can claim to be a “community spokesperson”, and can be treated seriously as such, these murderous loners seem to be trying a psychotic version of the same trick — claiming that by dint of shared skin colour or common religious sentiment they have the authority to speak on behalf of millions of people they have never met or whose lands they have never visited.
February 17, 2013
In History Today, Richard Canning reviews a new book on the trial of Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, aka Mrs Fanny Graham and Miss Stella Boulton in 1871:
McKenna provides what is certainly the definitive account of the Boulton/Park story, drawn not only from contemporary journalism but also from the full legal transcript, a miraculous survivor housed in Kew’s National Archives. It is a miserable tale, if leavened both by McKenna’s dramatic verve and, during the show trial held in Westminster Hall, by Fanny and Stella’s black humour. The establishment account – that the pair’s persistent cross-dressing importuning was a scandal to public morals that must be stopped – soon breaks down. McKenna shows clearly how the men were effectively set up and, to some degree, even entrapped.
Police confidence in pressing the serious charge of ‘conspiracy to solicit, induce, procure and endeavour to persuade persons unknown to commit buggery’ (as opposed to the minor offence of outraging public decency) was nonetheless misplaced. Buggery had until lately incurred the death penalty and still carried a lifelong penal sentence. No such charge had been brought for 240 years. The problem which attended the endless, farcical medical examinations of Boulton and Park reflected sodomy’s millennial history as the nameless or invisible crime. Few Victorian doctors could claim to have seen evidence of the extreme anal dilation which purportedly occurred after the ‘insertion of a foreign body’. Of the half dozen who inspected the pair – both inveterate sodomites, as McKenna concedes – only one remained certain that the corporeal evidence supported conviction. They were acquitted and the notion that ‘the impurities of Continental cities’ had reached London was rooted in legal terms for a quarter-century – if paradoxically seeming somehow to be affirmed.
McKenna lays bare a fascinating tapestry of interrelated personal histories, only partially capable of reconstruction. Frederick’s elder brother Harry, already twice disgraced, was hiding in Scotland under an assumed name. Their father, a judge, was urgently shipped off to South Africa during the trial of his younger son. Impressively, Frederick’s mother – amusingly a literal ‘Mary Ann’ – took to the stand to defend his moral character. So successful was she that the identification of Frederick/’Fanny’ as a theatrical mother’s boy exonerated him entirely from the imputation of vice.
November 10, 2012
Tim Harford discusses the image and reality of Britain’s campaign for “living wages”:
The minimum wage, £6.19 an hour for those 21 and over, is a legal obligation. The living wage, £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour elsewhere, is the result of a very successful publicity campaign and can count Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson among its advocates. There are no legal sanctions for paying less than the living wage, although Mr Miliband did announce plans to “name and shame” those companies who didn’t. Apparently that is helpful, because “name” rhymes with “shame”.
Why do campaigners say that you can’t live on the minimum wage?
Try living on £6.19 an hour and see how you get on.
For an economist you’re getting very high-minded all of a sudden.
I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that £6.19 an hour isn’t a lot of money. £8.55 an hour isn’t a lot of money, either, but a lot of people have to get by on less. Unfortunately we economists have to ask awkward questions — for instance, whether these campaigns are likely to help people without much income.
[. . .]
Perhaps we should just raise the legal minimum wage to the same level as the living wage.
Perhaps. Perhaps we should raise the legal minimum wage to a £100m an hour. I think if we did we’d find unemployment might rise. A minimum wage does two things. It will shift money from employers in an imperfectly competitive market to low-paid workers and it will induce some employers to sack workers, even if both employer and employee would prefer a deal struck at an illegally-low wage rate. There’s a case that for the good of low-paid workers, there should be no minimum wage at all. There should be one but it needs to be modest if it isn’t to cause too much unemployment.
Is there any evidence on the right level?
There’s lots, and it is mixed, but on balance it’s in favour of the idea that if you raise the cost of employing people, fewer people will be employed. It is worth bearing in mind that, for a lowly paid worker shifting from job to job, having less work available but at a high hourly rate, isn’t a bad deal. The concern has to be that certain types of people — especially young unskilled workers — will be shut out completely and denied the chance to learn on the job.
November 5, 2012
Today is the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot:
Everyone knows what the Gunpowder Plotters looked like. Thanks to one of the best-known etchings of the seventeenth century we see them ‘plotting’, broad brims of their hats over their noses, cloaks on their shoulders, mustachios and beards bristling — the archetypical band of desperados. Almost as well known are the broad outlines of the discovery of the ‘plot’: the mysterious warning sent to Lord Monteagle on October 26th, 1605, the investigation of the cellars under the Palace of Westminster on November 4th, the discovery of the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes, the flight of the other conspirators, the shoot-out at Holbeach in Staffordshire on November 8th in which four (Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy and the brothers Christopher and John Wright) were killed, and then the trial and execution of Fawkes and seven others in January 1606.
However, there was a more obscure sequel. Also implicated were the 9th Earl of Northumberland, three other peers (Viscount Montague and Lords Stourton and Mordaunt) and three members of the Society of Jesus. Two of the Jesuits, Fr Oswald Tesimond and Fr John Gerard, were able to escape abroad, but the third, the superior of the order in England, Fr Henry Garnet, was arrested just before the main trial. Garnet was tried separately on March 28th, 1606 and executed in May. The peers were tried in the court of Star Chamber: three were merely fined, but Northumberland was imprisoned in the Tower at pleasure and not released until 1621.
[. . .]
Thanks to the fact that nothing actually happened, it is not surprising that the plot has been the subject of running dispute since November 5th, 1605. James I’s privy council appears to have been genuinely unable to make any sense of it. The Attorney-General, Sir Edward Coke, observed at the trial that succeeding generations would wonder whether it was fact or fiction. There were claims from the start that the plot was a put-up job — if not a complete fabrication, then at least exaggerated for his own devious ends by Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, James’s secretary of state. The government’s presentation of the case against the plotters had its awkward aspects, caused in part by the desire to shield Monteagle, now a national hero, from the exposure of his earlier association with them. The two official accounts published in 1606 were patently spins. One, The Discourse of the Manner, was intended to give James a more commanding role in the uncovering of the plot than he deserved. The other, A True and Perfect Relation, was intended to lay the blame on Garnet.
But Catesby had form. He and several of the plotters as well as Lord Monteagle had been implicated in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion in 1601. Subsequently he and the others (including Monteagle) had approached Philip III of Spain to support a rebellion to prevent James I’s accession. This raises the central question of what the plot was about. Was it the product of Catholic discontent with James I or was it the last episode in what the late Hugh Trevor-Roper and Professor John Bossy have termed ‘Elizabethan extremism’?
October 17, 2012
When the story isn’t quite as juicy as the recounter would like, there is a common tendency to make shit up to amp up the tale:
I can stake a tenuous family link to the Great London Beer Flood disaster of 1814, which took place exactly 196 years ago today. My great-great-great-great grandfather on my mother’s side, Maurice Donno, was living in Soho, a minute or three’s walk from the Horse Shoe Brewery off Tottenham Court Road, when a huge vat of maturing porter at the brewery collapsed violently and flooded the surrounding tenements, killing eight people. Most, if not all, of those who died were poor Irish immigrants to London, part of a mass of people living in the slums around St Giles’s Church, the infamous St Giles “rookeries” (later to be cleaned away by the building of New Oxford Street in 1847). Maurice Donno was very probably Irish, his surname most likely a variation of Donough or something similar (which would make his first name a common Anglicisation of the Irish Muirgheas). Perhaps he knew some of those who died, or were injured, in the Great Beer Flood, or knew people who knew them. It seems very likely he would have gone across the road at some point after the tragedy, to join the hundreds who came to see the destruction wreaked by that dreadful black tsunami of beer.
[. . .]
Thank you, Eugene Tolstov, for pointing to my mistake, and for not laughing too much at my inability to multiply 3,555 by 36 by 10 and divide by 2,240. But at least my narrative on probably the worst industrial accident involving a British brewery was more accurate than many. The late Alan Eames, for example, in The Secret Life of Beer, claimed that the vat burst “with a boom heard five miles away” – not mentioned in any of the many sources from the time that I’ve read – while “eyewitnesses told of besotted mobs flinging themselves into gutters full of beer, hampering rescue efforts” – no, newspaper reports of the rescue don’t support this at all – and “many were killed suffocated in the crush of hundreds trying to get a free beer” – again, the contemporary reports don’t say this – while “the death toll eventually reached 20, including some deaths from alcohol coma” – no, the newspaper reports from the time make it clear that only eight people died, all women and children, and all killed by the initial huge wave of beer and the destruction it caused to the buildings in the tenements behind the brewery.
Similarly there’s a myth arisen that when those injured after the vat burst were taken to the nearby Middlesex Hospital, “patients already there for illnesses unrelated to the beer disaster smelled the ale and began a riot, accusing doctors and nurses of holding out on the beer they thought was being served elsewhere in the hospital”, while another myth claims that when bodies of those killed were taken “to a nearby house for identification”, so many people turned up to see them that “the floor collapsed under the sheer weight of onlookers” and “many inside the building perished in the collapse.” None of this is in any reports of the accident from newspapers in 1814, and if any of it had happened, you can bet one of them would have written about it.
September 13, 2012
Andrew Gilligan tells the sad story of the Cutty Sark‘s new “home”:
The architectural trade journal, Building Design, has announced that the historic tea clipper is the 2012 winner of the Carbuncle Cup, the wooden spoon for the dregs of British architecture.
The architects, Grimshaw, have taken something delicate and beautiful and surrounded it with a building that looks like a 1980s bus station. Clumsy and ineptly detailed, their new glass greenhouse around the Cutty Sark totally ruins her thrilling lines, obscures much of her exquisite gilding and cynically forces anyone who actually wants to see her to pay their £12 and go inside. The sight of people pressing their faces forlornly against the smoked glass to try to see something of the ship is one of the sadder in London.
Grimshaw have also punched a shopping centre-style glass lift up through the middle of the ship — and put two more lifts in a new square building, the size of a small block of flats, next to and towering over the ship herself. They’ve plonked a glass pod on the open main deck for a staircase (the old housing was wood, but that’s so nineteenth-century). They’ve installed lights on the masts which make it look like a Christmas tree. Above all, of course, they’ve hoicked the ship up on girders, dangling above the dry dock to create an “unparalleled corporate entertaining space” underneath — an act of vandalism that prompted the resignation of the chief engineer, who said it would place the vessel under unacceptable strain and end in its destruction.
Cutty Sark was severely damaged in a drydock fire in May 2007.
September 6, 2012
The Economist looks at the demographic and social changes underway in Brixton:
A good deal has changed in Brixton, a south London district, since Eta Rodney bought her Victorian terraced house in 1980. Then many of her neighbours were, like her, Jamaican. West Indians had settled in Brixton since 1948, when some arrived on the Empire Windrush. Today many of Mrs Rodney’s black neighbours are selling up and moving out of the area, making way for predominantly white newcomers. Britain’s historic black centre is being transformed — but in an odd way.
The Afro-Caribbean population of Lambeth, the borough where Brixton is located, is estimated to have fallen by 8% since 2001 even as the borough’s overall population has risen by 9%. Interracial mixing explains only part of this: the main reason is black flight. Afro-Caribbeans have dispersed from other parts of central London too, such as Hackney and Hammersmith and Fulham. They move to escape crime, buy bigger houses and get their children into better schools — the familiar reasons people of all races head for suburbia. In the South East outside London, Afro-Caribbean numbers have jumped, albeit from a low base.
[. . .]
Mrs Rodney feels both pressures. Her husband would like to retire to Jamaica. She prefers Streatham, further south in London, where she could buy a palace for the money gentrifiers are keen to pay for her house, with its original cornicing and marble fireplaces. The former council house she bought under the Conservative Party’s right-to-buy scheme—“I love Mrs Thatcher, God bless her soul”—would today fetch at least 20 times what she paid.
Of course, for many of us, the name Brixton has a very Clash-y context:
August 31, 2012
At sp!ked, Neil Davenport reviews a new book about London’s iconic underground:
The closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics was notable for its groaning reliance on tourist-shop icons — all black cabs, bowler hats, Houses of Parliament, red pillar-boxes and Mini Coopers. In a dreary way, what could we expect? A tourist-shop portrayal of Britain is still internationally recognisable and, for the organisers, safe enough to avoid party-pooping controversy. Curiously, though, one famous figure of the capital was noticeable by its absence: the London Underground. With its roundel logo, distinctive trains and elegantly functional map, few landmarks of London are as richly iconic as this. Indeed, as a character player in umpteen films, novels and pop songs, no London setting would be complete without the Underground.
Throughout the network’s history, though, Londoners’ relationship with the Tube has often been uneasy and aggravating: overcrowding, delays, cancellations, the fare’s dent on the wallet and, for the middle classes, striking tube workers and their ‘inflated’ salary. Nevertheless, it is only when the Tube is not working properly that we become aware of its magnitude. Unlike Tower Bridge or Beefeaters, the Tube isn’t a remote or mythical symbol of London. It’s the living, working and organic lifeblood of the capital. It is the way in which millions of Londoners are able to work and play and thus, unlike Parliament, has meaning to ordinary people’s lives.
The boons and banes of the tube for Londoners (and visitors) are warmly captured in Andrew Martin’s Underground, Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube. A novelist and former ‘Tube Talk’ columnist for the London Evening Standard, Yorkshireman Martin pithily combines an authoritative history of the network’s development with personal reflections on his daily journeys. People can say they have become Londoners when they can navigate the vast system and reflect on its highs and lows, quirks and anomalies. Whether we admit it or not, Londoners will have their favourite stations and lines (the author’s is the Central line, mine the Victoria). They will notice the art décor splendour of Arnos Grove station or the beautifully rich tiles at Baker Street. They will curse themselves for falling asleep on the last tube (it’s that gentle rocking motion that sends you off to the Land of Nod) and waking up, as I have on numerous occasions, in High Barnet.