Iain Sinclair on the M25 and his London Orbital
The best guides to the territory, in the days before JG Ballard perched in Shepperton, were to be found among the more imaginative late-Victorian authors: HG Wells at the southwest corner with The War of the Worlds, and Bram Stoker, who placed Dracula's abbey at Purfleet, where the QEII Bridge comes to rest among oil storage tanks. Count Dracula was the forerunner of contemporary real estate speculators: the first one to buy into Thames Gateway. The count anticipated Thatcher's boys-in-braces, Blair's quangos. Buy toxic, buy cheap: madhouses, old chapels, decaying abbeys. Then make your play: storage and distribution.Update: it's reminiscent of the final lines Italo Calvino's 'The Chase' (in Time and the Hunter):
The M25 is a circle that goes nowhere (except Bluewater and the other shopping-city chalk quarries). A voyage into reverie, narcolepsy, murder (road-rage stabbing at Swanley interchange), drug deals, madness. A road that connects the rock star (later Russian mafia) dormitories of Weybridge with overspill Essex, wide boys, casualties of industry, displaced artists. A walk that becomes a Bunyanesque pilgrimage, a way of reimagining London from its scattered ruins.
a highway born 50 years too late had arrived just in time to welcome the coming era of gridlock and real-time TV. A period when walkers would overtake motor-ists, trapped in their pods, glued to cell phones, staring, without seeing, at an unmoving landscape.
Absolutely nothing has changed: the line moves in little, irregular shifts of position, I am still prisoner of the general system of moving cars, where neither pursuers nor pursued can be distinguished.