There was a pandemic, so we cancelled our holiday and spent a week “not working” instead. On Monday the weather was amazing, so we got up early and drove to Charmouth for a laze on the beach.
Charmouth is the place where you go to find fossils. I went for a wander along the beach at low tide, and found a good spot. Belemnites and ammonites by the handful. The trick is to scratch around in the loose shingle between the cliffs and the waves. Stay away from those cliffs, mind: they’re really not safe.
And of course I went swimming. Twice. It would be wrong to go all the way to the seaside and not have a swim, wouldn’t it?
Kate plotted this walk. Not much up-and-down, mostly on a reasonable level, but high up – we had good views south towards Salisbury Plain, and good views north towards Colerne. We also discovered hidden hamlets and places with silly names (Longsplatt, Blue Vein, Cat’s Hill, Hobb’s Bottom).
Back in the early 2000s, I bought a book of aerial photos of London. It was called London, A Photographic Atlas and it was published by getmapping.com. This was, of course, years before Google Maps. Google itself was just a mere baby at this point.
Like lots of people I did some clearing out during lockdown, and this book of old, out-of-date photos got put on the charity shop pile.
Then I thought: hang on, before it goes, let me just check something. I fired up the iPad, and did some comparing. Now that Google Maps is a thing, you can zoom in on an area almost exactly the same as a page in the book.
The book of old photos shows a pre-Olympics London. Stratford is a minor-league rail junction, not the transmetropolitan transit hub and vast shopping mall of today.
Where now there’s the London Aquatic Centre, then there was scrubby wasteland. The Olympic stadium stands where there used to be some sheds and warehouses.
Another one, King’s Cross / St Pancras: you can see the vast chunk of land that had to be cleared for what is now the shiny new bit at the back end of St Pancras. You can see a little rectangle of green between the new St Pancras train tracks and the canal, that survived all the building work. You can see the old coal yards that got Heatherwicked and turned into restaurants.
I browsed the past and future alongside one another for a bit longer, then switched off the iPad and put the book back in the charity shop pile. It was nice to have a quick look back, but that London’s gone now.