'It is a journey to the end of the world. It is seven years since I last saw Robinson...I had heard from him from time to time during my travels but now he has written that he urgently wishes to see me, that he is on the verge of a breakthrough in his investigations and that I should come as soon as possible before it is too late.
...He isn't poor because he lacks money but because everything he wants is unobtainable...Robinson lives in Vauxhall, an area famous for its association with Sherlock Holmes...Apart from his academic work, Robinson rarely leaves his flat except to go to the supermarket...
Across the road from Robinson's flat a Driving School has opened...When we got home I stared out the window.'
Narration from London, a film by Patrick Keiller (1992)
There above lies the first line of the film 'London', and its last line and what a journey it is in between. Its restless protagonist Robinson is a classic 'autodidact' (like myself) a man who intends to solve 'the problem of London'. 'London' is loaded with beautiful and sublime random snippets of inner-city London that underscores a true narrative mania worthy of any pyschogeographer King. Each viewing reveals more and more of what we already know and live but also more and more of how finally wrong the film is in argument.
My first viewing was by accident in Vauxhall in 1996. After the discovery that Robinson lived in the area, it seemed right to set set out on the quest to find his house, to know! At the melancholy end of the movie, a view out of his window is shown, a view across to the new Portuguese-owned driving school. In my mind, although not so familiar with Vauxhall at that time, I knew exactly where it was. I cycled to this point on South Lambeth Rd but it was in fact not there. My second viewing of the film was probably in 2001. Finding Robinson didn't seem so urgent for me in that time. My third viewing of 'London', also in Vauxhall, was in October 2005. Once again, I had a sense that the driving school was somewhere nearby and should be found, located. This time I went to the Library to check out old Telephone and Post Office directories. I knew that a Londis supermarket was next door to the school in the 1992 shot but on arrival at the library, the name of the store went out of my mind. I also knew that a butchers was the other side. Anyway, eventually, after many false starts, the real address was there on the page. It was listed as 119 South Lambeth Rd, Vauxhall SW11. I assembed my papers and cycled to where this would be. Marvellously, mysteriously, it was in the exact same spot that I had first thought it to be and visited in 1996. The circular window on the front door on the right of the driving school was the only still existing remnant of truth from the mental still I had taken in mind from the movie. Londis was now Universal Food and Wine, the Drivemasters School of Motoring was now Golden Dragon Chinese Takeaway and the butchers was now Madeira, a Portuguese delicatessen. Opposite was the council block, Bishops House, home of Robinson. Now you know. I feel that these detective works are important in an age such as ours. Thank you.
2013 Now Chicken Valley