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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday May 26 2015

Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo.  Exit your train, and go through the barriers.  Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit.  Step outside.  You are in “Station Approach”:

image

I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.

You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi.  But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”.  (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps.  Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.

To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie.  To the far right, the Spray Can.  Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.

It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train.  Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings

What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter.  In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground.  If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them.  Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”.  Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared.  The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now.  But these two buildings could hardly be more different.  The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss.  The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.

And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:

image imageimage image

Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.

Stations are great linear photo-opportunities.  This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level.  If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings.  This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.

Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations.  The traffic would wait for ever.  So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level.  So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it.  You can from Station Approach.  Well, I can, because I want to.