72. Smithfield - page 349

72. Smithfield - 349

Milgrim and Fiona meet with Special Agent Whitaker outside London's Smithfield Market.

page 352

"Okay," said Fiona. "I've got the keys to the Yamaha. Call her. I'll need to explain where she's meeting us."
"Where is she meeting us/"


This time, removing the hairspray helmet, which he was starting to accept as an inherent and not entirely unfair cost of riding with Fiona, and almost, possibly, to enjoy, Milgrim found himself beneath a sort of deep, glassy, probably plastic awning, slung horizontally from above, running the seeming length of a very long building, apparently the only one on this very long block, ornate to American eyes but probably leanly functional to its Victorian builders. Sections of brick alternated with narrower sections of grey cement. A pair of obvious couriers sat on their bikes, the big Hondas Fiona called maggots, about twenty feet away, smoking cigarettes and drinking from tall cans.





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

For a while, Chasbikes only worked on Honda's workhorse CX500 V-twin, which London's couriers affectionately call "maggots." Nowadays, however, the shop is crammed with slightly newer models also favored by working riders. Hanging around in here you quickly realize that most couriers care not a whit for style. What they want is bulletproof reliability first and foremost, preferably with a shaft drive. So would you if you rode 50,000 miles a year, in all weather, in one of the world's most congested cities.


In Dickens' time, Smithfield Market was London's live cattle market. While they no longer drive cattle into central London, it's still the city's major wholesale meat market. The building covers an entire city block. Like most London markets, it's only open one day a week--in this case, Monday. The rest of the week, traffic in and out of the building is minimal, so there's room to park bikes and loiter, out of the rain, under the awnings that cover the market's loading docks.

The cafe (pronounced caff, by the way, despite the way Microsoft Word obligingly inserts an accent over the "e") across the street makes what one courier told me was "...the best tea in London, mate, because they still use loose leaves, not bags." Shelter from the rain; cheap, plentiful, hot tea; quick access to the law and banking offices of The City. Smithfield is an ideal habitat for London's motorcycle couriers.


See also:

Chapter 49. Great Marlborough


Smithfield is located within the Square Mile of the City of London bordered on one side by Charterhouse Street and on another by Farringdon Road.


Smithfield - or London Central Markets - is not just the largest EU approved wholesale meat market in the country, but the oldest too.

Originally known as Smoothfield, it was a large open space just outside the city boundaries on the edge of St Bartholomew's Priory. (The name meant a smooth plain - but the word eventually became known as smith, a corruption of the Saxon word smeth, which meant smooth).

In the Twelfth Century it was used as a vast recreational area where jousts and tournaments took place. By the late Middle Ages the area had become the most famous livestock market in the country.

There was also a murkier side to the area, because from the early Thirteenth Century it was used as a place of execution for criminals. Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasants' Revolt, was executed here, as was Scottish hero William Wallace and of course, it was the location of Bartholomew Fair - three days of merrymaking, dancing, selling and music which over the centuries became the most debauched and drunken holiday in the calendar. Even so, it lasted almost 700 years before it was eventually closed in 1855.

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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