Seniorem sit Senex?

So I was thinking, why not share some wild speculation about the Old Man – Genius Loci of the River Thames – in Ben Aaronovitch’s PC Grant/Rivers of London series?

Tiberius Claudius Verica, put on some pants!

The Old Man – AKA Father Thames – was originally a Romano-British priest named Tiberius Claudius Verica who made a deal with the River Thames while standing on the original bridge of Roman London. And when we say original bridge we mean original. When Peter pays a second visit to the memory of Roman London in Lies Sleeping he notes that the bridge stands on pontoons, making it the temporary one the Romans put up after their invasion in AD 43. They replaced it with a pile bridge around AD 50, so there’s maybe a period of 10 years when Verica could have made his deal.

His ‘sons’ on the other hand – the Genii Locorum of the Thames’ tributaries – clearly predate the Romans. Familial relationships between river gods are unnecessarily complicated, but both the old Beverly Brook and Tyburn are at the very least Celtic Britons. Assuming they updated with the times (which we certainly know Sir William of Tyburn did) they could conceivably date back to the first peopling of Britain way back in the paleolithic.

Whenever exactly Tyburn and Beverly (or should that be Beaver-Lea?) were adopted by their water courses, it certainly preceded the adoption of Verica. Which seems pretty odd. How is it that (comparatively) minor rivers would have their own deities, while the Thames didn’t?

One answer is obvious. It used to have a god, but then it didn’t. The Old Man is not the original Genius Loci of the Thames!

If someone killed your family then published THIS I imagine you’d piss off upriver as well…

We have seen several examples of rivers losing their gods then acquiring new ones. The most prominent is of course is the abandonment of the lower Thames by the Old Man after the Great Stink and the deaths of his sons in 1858. The tideway remained godless for a century until the adoption of Mamma Thames circa 1958. But there’s also the example of the Mosel, whose Genius Loci was murdered by the Ahnenerbe during World War II. A new goddess spontaneously appeared around 2010, seventy or so years later.

In 2013 During the events of Foxglove Summer Peter and Beverly were involved in the potential creation of a new Genius Loci for the River Lugg, the previous god having been killed by Welsh Methodists. While Methodism started spreading through Wales in the 1730s it doesn’t seem unreasonable to presume that attempts at river-murder would require some kind of organisational backing – the official Presbyterian Church of Wales being established in 1811 suggests the attack may have taken place after that date.

(Edit: A reread of Foxglove Summer has supplied the fact that the Lugg was done in during the Victorian era, which gives us a limit of 112 to 176 years before 2013)

So these examples give us rivers waiting for between 70 and 200 176 years to choose a new god.

If we apply this range to the date of Tiberius Claudius Verica’s elevation to Genius Loci we get a date for the death of the previous Father Thames somewhere between 130 and 20 BC. So the question is, what happened around the Thames in this period that could have killed a Genius Loci?

I’ll tell you what happened – three words – Gaius Julius Caesar!

Caesar’s first invasion of Britain in 55 BC was a bit of a fizzer. He turned up on the beach, made camp, lost a bunch of boats to unexpected high tides then turned around and went home. But the following year he came back and (despite further tidal problems) ended up chasing the Britons all the way to the Thames and parts beyond. He even sent a war elephant stomping into the river. We know that the Romans knew how to make gods (cf. Mr Punch), isn’t it possible they knew how to kill them too?

If we want to speculate further, perhaps it wasn’t tides that damaged Caesar’s boats? A ticked off Genius Loci in control of the Thames Estuary could do a lot of damage. And anyone – god or man – who struck at Julius Caesar usually came to regret it.

So in 45 BC Caesar’s legions killed the god of the Thames. Ninety-five years later the river chose a new god, a young Briton who’d seen which way the wind was blowing and hitched his chariot to the incoming Romans.

(Of course none of this explains why the Walbrook had no god 11 years later, but I can’t solve all these issues at once!)

Edit: I turned this into a story, because of course I did.

Into Darkness

Saw Star Trek: Into Darkness last night. I haven’t got time right now to write up my thoughts in full, but I will say that I quite enjoyed it – even if the backstory of the main villain was a bit underused. The constant references to that other movie were also a lot of fun.

The thing that impressed me the most however is that the technology of the 23rd century is not only advanced enough to build faster than light spacecraft, but also – apparently – to rotate St Paul’s Cathedral 180 degrees at will šŸ˜‰


Were it not a violation of God’s law I’d marry this map…

Map of Norrilund (Big PDF file Warning!)

It’s a genius steampunk remix of London by one “Handsome Rob” and is so rich in detail and language that it feels like somewhere you could actually visit. If I could produce just one conworld artifact as good as this, I’d die a happy man.

Good show sir! Jolly good show!

London Burning, Leicester Pretty Much OK

I am of course keeping an eye on the situation in the UK. It’s pretty awful, but so far things seem to have been relatively calm (although ringed with incidents) in Edmonton where my uncle is and in Leicester, where the worst seems to have been a bunch of hoodied idiots running around smashing windows in the city centre until the police scattered them.

Hopefully this will blow over once the worst troublemakers are apprehended and the rest of the tag-along idiots sober up. It won’t address the complicated social issues that are the root cause, but at least it should restore order for the time being.

To everyone in the UK – not just my family and friends – the world’s thoughts are with you.

Baby, I’m Getting Better

I could leave my room, my cocoon, find the door and walk out to the sun

Well, after a couple of months of extreme stress at work, egg-induced illness over the weekend, the general hurly-burly of Easter and the circadian disruption of getting up insanely early for the ANZAC dawn service yesterday, I’m actually starting to feel human again. By this time tomorrow I might actually be up to doing useful things, rather than creeping around muttering “things, things, yes, we must do things, so many things to do” like Gollum ;D

In the meantime here are a couple of fantastic mini documentaries I’ve been meaning to promote for ages. They’re both about the urban development of London and – no! Wait! Don’t leave! They’re very entertaining! Honest!

If you doubt my recomendation (and if so, what the hell is your problem? ;)) just watch the second one, which is more polished and contains a good deal more surrealism. But honestly, you should watch them both, ideally in order.


Waylaid by Art

Cartographical exploits

Spent far too much time over the weekend doing the first bit of art (for a certain value of ‘art’) I’ve done in ages. A hand drawn map of London.

The idea (you can’t just draw something, you need to have an idea behind it for it to be real ‘art’) was to replicate half pages from the A-Z (the London street directory par exellence) by hand and then paste them all together. As each panel would be drawn without referencing the others the end result would be a fragmented, patchwork view of the city – kind of an exquisite corpse map – with roads, rivers and rail-lines fractured or just coming to dead stops. Close up it’s a mess, but zoomed out it’s still recognisably London.

(I suppose I could come up with some art-wank about it representing the tourist’s view of the city as a collection of disconnected enclaves surrounding tube stations, but that’s just a little too pretentious, even for me :))

The end result can be viewed here. Well, sort of the end result as after I scanned it I added another panel to the lower left. But you get the basic idea.

I was inspired to create the map by Londonist’s hand drawn map exhibition.Ā  I’ve submitted it – guess we’ll see if they like it.


Venting my frustrations…

I have completely failed to make any blog entries while I’ve been here in the UK haven’t I? This is mainly because I’ve been having too much fun to spend time sitting in front of a computer typing away, but since this is my last day with regular internet access I suppose I’d better make some kind of effort, lest everyone thinks I’ve died. So I though I’d write a review of my hotel.

For reasons that will become obvious I’m not going to name the hotel. I’d also like to state that overall my experience there has been good. There are just a few things that got on my nerves…

So let’s begin.

The staff at the “Mystery Hotel” are well organised and friendly. Check in and out are quick and efficient – if on arrival however you are allocated to rooms 114 or 115 it’s best to ask for a map. These are placed far away from the rest of the first floor, requiring extensive navigation to locate. There are signs, but these peter out before you hit the first of several staircases. Be careful – one wrong turn and you could end upĀ battling a snow-witch in a land where it’s always winter but never Christmas.

Your room will be clean with a wardrobe, a dresser, tea/coffee making facilties, a television, a phoneĀ and a safe. If you’re shelling out enough cash there may also be room to swing a cat – this is however London so a lack of space is only to be expected. You will have an onsuite bathroom, which is just the perfect size for you to brush your teeth without difficulty while sitting on the toilet. Hot water is both hot, wet and plentiful – in an unusual twist however cold water is in short supply, your tap producing just a half hearted trickle which refuses to alter in volume no matter how far you turn it.

Your toilet is a source of unending wonder – you will wonder for all eternity how it manages to produce noises akin to the base stop of a major pipe organ for several minutes after being flushed.

A continental breakfast buffet is provided in the basement restaurant. This is clean, well organised and packed to the gills with Spaniards by 8:00am, so get in early. The selection of food, drinks and condiments is perfectly adequate. The restaurant may be open for other meals – I’m honestly not sure. I did go down to check it out one evening but it was like the Mary Celeste down there, so I fled.

Eating options in the immediate area include the Pride of Paddington pub which does a very nice grilled chicken, three separate Italian restaurants in the space of about twenty metres of road, and a diner named Garfunkle’s just past Paddington station. I can recommend the gnocchi at Bizarro (perhaps that should be ‘me can recommends tasty potato dumpaling things’?) which comes with a free floor show from the serving staff who race around the place without break like their pants are on fire. Garfunkle’s is also very nice, but beware of the tendancy of the waitstaff to assume that any change they owe you is intended as a tip.

But back to the hotel. It offers a laundry service where you place your dirty clothes in the bag provided and leave them in your room. By the time you get back from your day’s activities the maid will have tidied your room, made your bed and neatly left the bag of still-dirty clothes on top of it. I found the best laundry option was to haul your clothes one block along the street towards Paddington Station to the Harlequin laundrette where a nice Muslim lady will have them washed, folded and ready to pick up by 5:00 that evening for about ten pounds.

Your hotel room includes a phone. This will not work. The procedure to get it working involves heading down to reception where they’ll explain that you need to pay a deposit of either 40 or 50 pounds (depending on who you’re talking to) before they’ll switch it on. It’s best to do this before you head out in the morning, as it gives them the full day to do absolutely nothing about it. On your return in the evening confirm that the phone is still not working. Head back down to reception and query this. They will express puzzlement and poke at a computer for a while before stating with confidence that they have no idea what’s going on. Ask them to look into it again, and with any luck your phone line will be sorted out by the time you return to the hotel the next day. Probably.

Transport connections are excellent with the hotel only two blocks from Paddington station. Busses charge up and down the street at all hours, and if you feel lucky you can try to catch one of the wildly bucking black cabs that hurtle around the Hilton in the nightly running of the taxis.

There is an internet terminal in the bar. You’re probably better off heading down the street to the Reload internet cafe. A weekly or monthly membership is fairly cheap and you not only get decent hardware and speeds, but you can enjoy the sound of the Underground trains as they whiz back and forth only a few metres through the wall from where you sit.

So, that pretty much sums up my hotel experience here in London. Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Southampton for a few days before flying home mid next week…

PS: The wedding was excellent! I’ve put some photos (note that “some” – I’ve got heaps more) up on my Flickr Stream

Chavs and Rude Boys

I think they’re kind of like bogans…

Well, this is it. I fly out tonight for the UK. As is usual for these kind of things I am in equal parts excited and terrified. And I haven’t even finished packing yet.

The terror in particular is compounded by my discovery yesterday that I totally screwed up my dates and am arriving in London a day earlier than I thought. On the upside this means I have an extra day to do stuff in. On the downside it means I have no accommodation booked for my first night. I imagine the hotel I’m staying at will be able to fit me in, but if not I may end up sleeping under a bridge, fighting off chavs and rude boys with a pocket knife.

So yeah. My plane leaves at 1:05am tonight. Wish me luck!

They’ll like it in Seoul

Letting demonic forces loose in the capital of the UK for fun and profit

Ok, so I’ve been thinking (oh-oh) lately about the not terribly successful MMORPG Hellgate London.

For those unfamiliar with it (ie: just about everybody) it’s set in a future London after demons have taken over the Earth. You play as a member of resistance group fighting against the demons with both high power weaponry and magic, and taking shelter in the Underground (which was apparently constructed with demon resistant properties by a farsighted conspiracy of Freemasons).

The game didn’t garner much in the way of praise and the company that made it has now gone bust – although some servers are struggling on in South Korea (is there any game that doesn’t do well in South Korea?). Nonetheless I’ve always thought the basic concept was kind of cool (I am after all a devoted Londiniophile).

Anyway I was thinking about how some games (exploiting the various location technologies present in phones and other handhelds these days) are starting to take advantage of geolocation. And it struck me – how cool would a cut down version of Hellgate London be if you actually had to play it in London?!

Think about it. Your character is sent out to battle some Demons at Trafalgar Square. In order to complete the quest you actually have to physically go to Trafalgar Square. You then sit there outside the National Gallery, fighting demons on your handheld until the quest is complete. Afterwards, when your character needs to rest, trade and replenish supplies you have to physically go to an Underground station (or at least stand outside one – making people pay for train tickets to play the game seems a little harsh).

Now naturally this approach would have some problems. The market would be restricted to people actually in London (although you could probably set up games located in plenty of major cities), there’d be plenty of gamers who wouldn’t be interested in tramping around the streets when they could be sitting inside, sucking down doritos, and the National Gallery might not want hordes of nerds standing outside playing with their iPhones. But for those people who got involved it would be an extra level of immersion – superimposing the game world over the real world in a fairly unprecedented way.

So that’s my idea. I’m sure they’d like it in Seoul.

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