49. Great Marlborough - page 252

49. Great Marlborough - page 252

page 252

"You might need the loo," said the girl, twenty-something, fox-faced, pale brown hair mussed by the helmet. The hairspray wouldn't have been hers.

"Loo?"

"Downstairs," the girl said, indicating a sign: WOMEN. Clean. Open till two. Free." She looked very serious.

page 253

Upstairs on the small concrete island that she guessed might be a tiny public square, though it wasn't square, the girls called Fiona stood near her motorcycle, pinching at pixels on her iPhone's screen. The half-dozen other bikes parked there were all equally large and rough-looking. A pair of couriers stood on the tarmac, smoking, past the end row of bikes, like knights in smudged primary colors, serrated plates of carbon fiber giving their backs a Jurassic look. Shapeless hair and beards like extras in a Robin Hood movie. Beyond

page 254

them, she recognised the mock Tudor fa├žade of Liberty, Great Marlborough Street. Not so far from Portman Square. It felt like days since she'd left there.

William Gibson cites this article in the end credits of the UK hardback edition:

Artful Dodgers, from the February 2009 issue of Motorcyclist, by Mark Gardiner

Up on Great Marlborough Street, there's another courier hangout, just outside the posh, west-end Liberty's department store. A tiny urban square is completely taken over by couriers, pretty much all day long. There's a place to park bikes off the street--commuters park their bikes here too, but in the designated spots, not right on the sidewalk. Nearby cafes and pubs tolerate--or at least don't actively discourage--couriers, and it's the site of one of London's all-too-rare public toilets. In decent weather, it's a good place to ogle upper-class birds doing the shops, most of whom when they walk past give the couriers the sort of looks that deer reserve for coyotes.

MC_couriers_Great_Marlborough_Street_public_toilets_450.jpg.

On the day of this photo, Pete (orange sweatshirt) had been fired over an argument with his firm's controller. Not a problem. Rival companies will hire an experienced rider on a moment's notice.

My guide to Great Marlborough was a cheerful courier named Pete, who'd been fired the day I met him, and was hanging out with a lager in hand when I arrived at around 10 a.m. The scene here was mostly short-haul couriers. "Great Marlborough? They're a bunch of nutters up there," one of the Smithfield guys warned me,"whatever you do, don't let them take you for a ride!" Let's just say, by the looks of them, that if they were in a large group leaving a soccer game, I would have walked quickly in another direction. But maybe looks are deceiving.

Great_Marlborough_Street_public_toilets_gsv_450.jpg

Liberty_Great_Marlborough_Street_gsv_450.jpg

Contemporary London motorcycle courier culture is not so very different from that of San Francisco push bike couriers, which William Gibson set slightly in the future, in his 1993 novel Virtual Light


About this blog

In collaboration with Node Magazine this the ZeroHistory.net blog contribution to discussion and hyper link cloud enhanced literary criticism around the novel by cyber punk / literary fiction author William Gibson, entitled Zero History, which was officially published on Tuesday 7th September 2010

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Zero History blog

Zero History blog - ZeroHistory.net - discussion and analysis of William Gibson's Zero History novel, to be published on 7th September 2010 in the USA and on 30th August 2010 in the UK.

Spook Country blog

Spook Country blog - SpookCountry.co.uk - includes discussion and hyper link cloud enhanced literary criticism of William Gibson's previous novel Spook Country

"Spook Country" hyperlink cloud annotation

Our "Spook Country" hyperlink cloud annotation - re-orderd into numerical Chapter sequence

The Node Magazine node.tumblr.com, which this was a collaborative online contribution to, was online even before the official publication date of the first hardback edition of the book in August 2007.

This has been commented on by the author William Gibson, and described by Emeritus Professor of English Literature John Sutherland as "the future of literary crticism"

London CyberPunk Tourist Guide

Originally prompted by the preparations for William Gibson book signing and lecture event promoting Spook Country in London, during August 2007, this "local knowledge" guide to places of interest to cyberpunk fans was compiled, and has been subsequently expanded.

London CyberPunk Tourist Guide - http://CyberPunk.org.uk

Please feel free to add comments or send emails, to keep it up to date.

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