Street View: The Upside

May 9, 2009

I had barely touched the Street View functionality of Google Maps before today.  I was aware of the political and privacy arguments against the technology, but hadn’t really put it to use.

Today, while in the process of writing memoir notes about my earliest years, I was using Google Maps to check locations from my boyhood in London.  I was looking at the highest magnification to the arial of one location and accidentally pressed +Zoom again.  I was transported in StreetView and there before me, as clear as day, was the house I lived in from the age of 9 until I left home in my teens.  I spent ages just zooming the view up and down the street, and tracing my walk to primary school.  Then I was hooked.

I have now looked at each of the places I lived in from my birth to the age of about 25, each of my schools, places friends and relatives lived, places I played.  And each image brought memories flooding back in ways that probably couldn’t have happened without the pictures.  Extraordinarily powerful stuff.  Great technology.

Annandale Road_Number Three

The picture shown here is of 3, Annandale Road, Chiswick, London W4, with the blue door.  (The out of focus areas are a Google artifact.)  I lived here, in a cold-water third floor walk up, from my birth until a little before I was 10.   This is a very fashionable area today (the building at number 7 is for sale at $1.2m), but back in the early 1950s it was a heavily-bombed lower working class area.  Chiswick was grey and dirty and I am sure I lived my life in black-and-white until we moved away.

This house has hardly changed (except for the painted door).  When I lived in the building, a lady called Agnes lived on the ground floor, a spinster lady.  On the second floor lived my Nanny Bull (mother of my paternal uncle’s wife).  She was “a very old” lady (though probably younger than I am today) and as I remember, she always sat in the bay window, looking out at the street.  On the third floor, the window to the right was my bedroom.  The windows centre and left were the tiny living room.

Amazing to be given such access to our memories.

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