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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, April 08, 2006
    Adrift around the horse's head
    The map shows that St James's Park is the shape of an equine head; and on the day of the Grand National I was 200 miles away walking in the area contained in this map, around Horse Guards Parade. Fascinating and fun to be with Phil Smith and some good companions on a 90-minute drift from the ICA and back to mark a special occasion - the publication of A Mis-Guide to Anywhere. Phil's walk took a monumental theme; and there were plenty of surprises....

    Phil under Captain Cook explaining the problem of the 'tight trousers' which was always a challenge for Victorian bronze-workers. After which we reflected on the two women-in-stone on either side of Admiralty Arch, NAVIGATION and ARMOURY.

    Reeling round the fountain - Trafalgar Square. Contested space - pigeons, Lapper, and this afternoon, an ultra-Protestant proselytising roadshow.

    Nelson's column was all wrapped up today - we peeked through the fence for a view of the hybrid lions (their feet modelled on domestic cats').

    Small statues: scary policemen in a Whitehall tourist store ...

    ... and even scarier little dogs in another. We tried outstaring them but they spooked us every time. I got told off by shop staff for photographing their plastic figures; outside Phil described the rapid attention paid to him by armed police as he ran across Whitehall yesterday.

    I took no photographs of the Whitehall guardsmen; it felt too intrusive, or voyeuristic, to me. They present a deeply disturbing scene close-up, their outfits suggesting the worst aspects of camp and/or machismo, their seemingly impassive bearing disguising real trauma if you look into their eyes...

    Horse Guards Parade, where we discovered a Q in the ground where (presumably) the Queen's horse stands on ceremonial occasions, and had a conversation with a policeman with an automatic rifle who had come hot-footed towards us when he saw us straying from the tourist trail. He was keen to tell us that the Blairs' children are "just like any others" and are often found to be playing football in their back garden. I found myself similarly amazed by the PM's fairly ordinary garden wall (in the background here) - ordinary, that is, except for the armed police guarding it 24-7.

    Investigating the dead ivy lining the walls of the security bunker at the corner of The Mall. Keenly aware by this stage of the walk, of the complexities of the area we were in: a scenic tourist-magnet and at the same time a heavily militarised zone. We spotted a family of ducks nesting atop this gigantic concrete complex, just above a cluster of security cameras. A fascinating, and wonderfully mis-guided afternoon.