Fascinating (if you like that kind of thing, which I do) post over at Chris Heathcote's AntiMega, on discovering coded markings attached to bus stops in London - and then wondering what it all means.
I had a brief chat with a taxi driver today, talking about 'the knowledge' and how they learn the city. I've always been kind of intrigued by The Knowledge - the mysterious and necessarily arcane test that London taxi drivers undergo in order to earn their badge.
"Candidates will then be asked to attend an acceptance interview where they will be presented with the infamous "Blue Book" which is a book listing 400 routes through London which the candidate must learn, including all places of interest, museums, hospitals, police stations, cinema's, statues, monuments, restaurants, government buildings and any place that a fare paying passenger might require to go along these routes."
Apparently, according to my cabbie, once passed you never have to revise it. You do it once, that's it - it covers an insanely large area of London, from Stretford in the east to Acton in the west, way north to way south - all the main roads, and main locations. From then on, it's all practice, reinforcing your knowledge of the city by driving it, reinforcing certain routes just as neural networks do.
I also asked him whether he has particular routes or patches or patterns which repeat (you can just hear me saying it, can't you! Sigh). He said "No". He could go anywhere, anyday, and does. He'd been to Milton Keynes that AM, before taking me from Broadcasting House to Gower Street. I was looking for his version of the soft city, rather obviously, and when pressed he admitted he does have a patch he returns to if no one is looking for a ride (in his case, Warwick Avenue, where there are some good intersecting roads, plus a nice cabbie shelter where he can have a chat etc.) I like the idea that the cabbies have their own patches across the city, their own invisible comfort zones and secrets, areas they consider a 'home' in some sense, albeit transient. And that The Knowledge becomes their version of the city over time.