Monday, 6 May 2013

abbey road

While the others went to London Zoo on this bank holiday, I did the thing at the top of my 'London things I still haven't done' list, and after twenty-three years here finally went up to Abbey Road. It's fascinating. There is a live webcam on the Abbey Road Studios website where at all times you can watch people crossing and taking photos of people crossing the zebra crossing from the cover of Abbey Road - once you start watching it's hard to tear your eyes off it. (Although in fact it's not the crossing, exactly, because sometime between then and now they moved it a few metres south).

The wall outside the studio (which has a smaller street-front than you'd expect, and a plaque to Edward Elgar on it) - and outside the unfortunate block next door - is covered with graffiti, which is cleaned off every few months. You can see where the webcam is, in the studio car park, and stand at the studio gates and wave at it. Whether you do that or not, once you've done your crossing you can go onto the website where they keep hourly archives (for that day only, it looks like) and then take a still of yourself and download or upload it. I found myself (about ten to and five past ten), but don't think I'd have known it was me if I hadn't known it was me; cctv footage of a terror suspect is what it put me in mind of.

Watching people, in the flesh and online, what strikes you most is how often the crossers either walk in a really exaggerated way or freeze, as if they're having their portrait taken by a Victorian photographer. Also, of course, you feel sorry for the traffic. Regarding the photographers, a few (fool-)hardy souls do go into the middle of the road for maximum accuracy, but it's striking how many people just take the photo from the pavement (mostly getting it right, looking north) and not the superior safe location of the monument at the road junction (which you can see in the centre rear of the webcam image and is where I spent most of my time, watching the show). The monument is a memorial to Edward Onslow Ford, an artist I was not familiar with; the sculpted figure - which was worth seeing - is, appropriately enough, of a muse.

Apart from the sculpture of the muse, my other favourite thing about the visit was the *other* zebra crossing, a minute up the road - poor, sad, neglected thing. I took some photos of it too; I felt like applauding the family I saw actually use it.