07/06/2022

TheLast week was a good week for built environment geeks like myself. On Tuesday I headed straight for wherever I go on the new Elizabeth Line, which was very important, and the ride was clearly exhilarating, though pointless.

By the time I got to the first escalator, the service was just right, its staff with giant purple sponge hands guiding passengers as they walked very slowly to their trains, cell phones raised above their heads in awe.

Coming into the light at Farringdon Station a little later, the pleasant sense of confusion seemed to add to the delight. (I chose the exit near the Barbican, whose brutalist architecture reminds us of the new ticket hall.)

Since when am I a subway enthusiast? How do I know that the platforms at Farringdon are 30m underground, and why am I so intrigued by imagining the adorable buildings standing above them? I honestly do not know. I became more and more alienated from myself.

But the event was not all in London. Elsewhere, six historic sites are listed to celebrate the anniversary. I’m glad they included the 1970s Queen’s Theater in Hornchurch and All Saints’ Church in Shard End, Birmingham, which were consecrated in 1955 (the statue of Christ above the entrance to the latter by William Ploy, artist, Worth Looking).

But really, my heart jumped at the news that the commemorative markings on the M62 through the Pennines are now Grade II listed.

Unveiled in 1971, these cays stand either side of Britain’s highest highway, the first adorned with the red rose of the House of Lancaster, the second of the white rose of the House of York. It’s good to think about the cars you’re passing by now, perhaps unnoticed but forever protected – although of course I would definitely prefer one over the other.

When I got married, my bouquet consisted of rosemary for remembrance, forget-me-nots, and yes, white roses of the province that I care about just as much as my husband.

Literary trio

English novelist and writer Mrs. Ivy Compton Burnett (1892-1969). Photo: Picture Post / Getty Images

I meet a new friend for dinner, and after reading about my fondness for weird literary notes in this column, he came up with a nice copy of Elizabeth ivy, a book by the now semi-forgotten writer Robert Liddell about his relationship with writers Ivy Compton-Burnett and Elizabeth Taylor. On the bus home, I vow to keep it for my vacation, but when I arrive, I feel a little ecstatic, I can’t resist opening it.

My sleepy eyes drift over a random page…it appears to be the early 1960s, Liddell quotes one of Taylor’s letters describing her visit to Compton-Burnett. The latter was apparently completely silent on the day in question “apart from the outbreak of petty violence over the death penalty and Iris Murdoch’s writing a lot”. In case you were wondering, I didn’t find that disappointing. But on the contrary.

design fun

Althea McNish, textile designer. Photo: Rose Sinclair

The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow features a retro display from Althea McNish, who came to the UK from Trinidad in 1950 and went on to become a famous fabric designer for Liberty, Heal’s, and Dior. McNish’s exuberant patterns appeal to me very much—they are irresistibly reminiscent of G-Plan and Françoise Sagan furniture—and as a result I’ve been walking around the gallery more like someone visiting a store than a gallery. Sometimes, it was honestly more than I could do to stop myself.

Rachel Cook is a columnist for The Observer