Continuing my Thursday Challenge to myself to click ‘Random Article’ in Wikipedia and write about whatever article comes up first, and also link the topic in some way to writing.
Today’s article is actually something I know about – Marylebone Road in London. It’s one of the major roads in North London, running east-west from Regent’s Park to the A40 which is one of the main routes westwards out of London. It gets its name (which is actually pronounced ‘Marlibon’) from St Mary’s Church which was built on the banks of a small stream or ‘bourne’.
Because it is part of the inner London ring-road, it’s frequently congested. I’ve been stuck in traffic jams for ages on part of this road when I’ve been heading for Euston Station. As I’m usually in one of the traditional London black cabs, I watch the taxi meter increasing rapidly in direct contrast to the actual progress, since the fare goes up by 20 pence for every half minute you’re in standing traffic.
How do I connect all this to writing? A taxi journey can be similar to writing. Sometimes the road is clear; other times you’re stuck in a traffic jam. In the same way, you can make good progress with your story; other times you’re reduced to a crawl, or a stop-start, or even a complete standstill. Maybe we can learn a lesson from the taxis. When the traffic slows down or stops, the drivers can’t simply abandon their cabs. They have to keep going, knowing they’ll eventually reach their destination, however long it might take.
There’s another link between London taxi drivers and writing. To gain their license, black cab drivers have to pass a test called ‘The Knowledge’ which is an in-depth study of about 320 standard routes in central London, and also places of interest (not just the main tourist places, but hotels, theatres, stations, parks, hospitals etc etc etc.) The ‘routes’ can be compared to the writer’s knowledge of grammar, spelling and punctuation; the ‘places of interest’ to the research we need to do and the facts we need to check for every story we write.
Returning to the original topic of Marylebone Road, one of London’s major tourist attractions is on this road –Madame Tussauds, the original waxwork museum, established by Marie Tussaud herself in 1835. The museum displays many famous figures which are incredibly lifelike – but they’re still made of wax. Our characters may be like this at times - outwardly lifelike, but lifeless and emotionless. It’s worth thinking about!
On a brighter note (literally!), next to Madame Tussauds is the London Planetarium, which reminds me of the quote by Oscar Wilde: We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.