The O of Fitzrovia 4: Wayfinding

Who needs Legible London? Jennifer Kavanagh finds giving directions is often a pleasure if a little haphazard.

By Jennifer Kavanagh

One of the pleasures of living in Fitzrovia is the variety of people who live here, and those who pass through. I seem to spend quite lot of my time showing people the way, or wondering if people studying a map and turning it upside down want me to butt in, or are simply enjoying the fun of discovering their own way.

Men on the whole don’t want help, and say so; women are sometimes relieved and grateful. Some are tourists; others on their way to an interview, or in the case of one elderly woman, to an audition as a film extra. We had quite a chat about what had become her career.

Sometimes, of course, there’s a language issue. One Japanese woman was quite alarmed at my accosting her, until I pointed to the map in her hand. Sometimes I exercise my rusty Italian or French, once explaining to a man at the bus stop that he could walk to the British Museum; and a bit later missing my own bus in the complexities of working out the way for an Indian family to get to Tower Hill.

Sometimes it turns into a rich conversation about bits of our lives; sometimes almost a dispute involving another passer-by who has a completely different idea about the whereabouts of a particular street. And sometimes I make a mistake and realise it only when I have sent someone gratefully off in the wrong direction. That’ll teach me to meddle.

Jennifer Kavanagh is the author of Call of the Bell Bird, the World is our Cloister and The O of Home. www.o-of-home.co.uk

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