Friday, 5 February 2010

"Dice Rules" - first journey

To London on Tuesday for the first of my chance dictated journeys. The day did not start well, with heavy rain forecast for London and a particularly nasty new set of roadworks just outside my local station, which meant I missed my intended train. This however, was a blessing in disguise as the train I caught was virtually empty, allowing me to consult my dice in peace!

The Rules of the Game

- Assign a task for each number of the dice
- Follow the instructions for the particular task without any intervention of will
- Decisions about directions to take eg. left or right, to be decided by the dice

My choice of chance as the framework for my journeys was vindicated when the dice chose itself as the method of the day - no. 3. Allow the dice to dictate your day, each number having been assigned a different task. A second roll of the dice came up with task no. 2 Travel to the ends of a randomly chosen tube line, which turned out to be the DLR or Docklands Light Railway, a line I was not familiar with. Although I had half hoped that it would choose no. 4 Get Lost, after my research into that topic for my last post, I stuck to the option I was dealt, despite being sorely tempted to cheat! A moment's anxiety made me wonder if the DLR is really a tube line, but I decided that as it was on the tube map, it must be counted as one. Second moment of contention - it is a line with 4 separate branches - which one to choose? Chance was determined to shove me in at the deep end! I decided to give chance its head, and made for the nearest end station, Bank, trudging the city streets for a damp half hour in search of inspiration. I remember reading somewhere that the Square Mile has the highest proportion of security cameras in the whole of London and I imagine that, camera in hand, I will have shown up on many of them!

From Bank, I boarded the first train to arrive at the platform and ended up in Lewisham, SE London, only about a mile from where I used to live many years ago. A rather dispiriting and aimless wander followed - though definitely not in the spirit of the flâneur, the intermittent rain putting paid to any idle sauntering - but I did manage to stumble upon some interesting photographic opportunities. At one point I wondered if God was trying to send me a message - for the second time in a few months, I was approached by a pair of Mormons and thereafter kept coming across messages of a religious nature. Strange encounters for one so irreligious!

From Lewisham to another end of one of the branch lines - Stratford in East London - the location of the new Olympic Games site. An unsettling combination of a run-down, poor neighbourhood cheek-by-jowl with all the signs of up-and-coming affluence - advertising billboards proclaiming the imminent arrival of improved retail facilities, exhorting us to shop and join in with the Olympic spirit and promising a new and exciting lifestyle for all. I couldn't help but be struck by the slightly sinister atmosphere - huge white hoardings blocking out the view of the site, security cameras and staff everywhere. But just round the corner, another world - a community which seemed to be rich in interesting and useful local shops and businesses, barbers and nail bars, churches and pubs.

At the end of this first foray into the random and unknown I was left feeling slightly ambivalent. The day had been rather cheerless and gloomy in many respects - but I told myself that bad weather is all part of the chance process and you have to make the most of what comes your way. And then the sun came out briefly and lit up this little slip of pink paper floating in a puddle, for all the world like a miniature origami yacht. On closer inspection I realised that it was part of a torn up betting slip with the odds scrawled on it - chance works in mysterious ways!


  1. This must have been an exciting experience to discover a vibrant city like London on chance dictated ways- a totally anti-touristic perspective and journey- I'm afraid I didn't dare -as foreigner- to discover London in this way- perhaps Berlin, a city I'm rather acquainted with? I think of Chad's and Chris' walks through London following the chance principle too, if I understood them well. I liked very much reading your story completed with some pics- lovely the end of the story and the last wonderful pic (pink betting slip- and a fine reflection in the puddle- I thought it were the Thames!)- a felicity, a little surprice indeed!- a real chance dictated and lovely journey- in spite of the London rain which is told to be a kind of 'culture" as I read recently! Pairs of Mormons you can see in my home town too, always properly dressed up! The train (pic nr. 1) looks very fashionable and clean! Who would put his feet on these elegant seats? I'm looking forward to your second journey- If it should be too dangerous, you should take with you Blackdog, but I assume you are a Mother Courage and a very emancipated lady!

  2. In our German newspapers we could see depictured the following bus ad: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." (I'm not sure if such an ad were possible in our country?) - The London bus inscriptions seem sometimes to be a bit more interesting and provoking: "You are part of"- of which/ of whom?

  3. There arfe some thoughts about the question: What is 'chance'/ 'ac-cident'- A very interesting, special definition by the Swiss author Max Frisch:" Zufall ist das, wofür wir eine Antenne haben, was uns zu-fällt" (free quotation by memory)- ac-cidental/by chance are (only)'things'/meetings... we own/have feelers and a feeling for, which may be falling to us (accidere), touching us because we are ready to accept/ to recieve/to observe them mentally/ psychologically!

  4. Thanks for your comments Philine - always of interest to see what you make of things. I am not familiar with the author Max Frisch, but I totally agree with his definition of chance - it reminds me of a similar quotation by Louis Pasteur - "Chance favours the prepared mind". You have to be prepared to recognise the opportunities that chance puts your way.