January 25th, 2012


The Road to Milton Keynes

It's hard to believe, but it's forty-nine years ago today that I shot from between my mother's thighs like a champagne cork, flew slickly through the despairing fingers of the midwife (my umbilical cord whipping back like a cut hawser), smashed through the window of Nightingale Ward, and fell naked into the thick snows of that bitter winter of 1963. Still steaming from its amniotic bath, my young body melted the ice into a tepid pool from which a scatter of fresh snowdrops instantly blossomed. "Truly," said a passing registrar, "this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius."

It seems like only yesterday.

Today, by contrast, I spent my birthday visiting Milton Keynes for the first time - a fitting way to mark the fact that my age is once again square, and I with it. I've always been curious to see a proper New Town, mind, and I was there on a happy errand (examining an excellent PhD I had no doubt would pass), but my curiosity is now officially sated.

One interesting tit-bit, though. Apparently the town planners built Midsummer Boulevard in alignment with the setting and rising of the solstice sun. (Presumably the same is true of Avebury and Silbury Boulevards, which run parallel to it on either side.) On June 21st (which is not Midsummer, I know, but still) the sun rises above the shopping centre and illumines the avenue like a silver mystic ribbon, all the way to the railway station. It's like an overspill for Stonehenge - and I admit I find that strangely charming. Square is the new ovoid.