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Abbey Road, London

"The Rubicon was a very insignificant stream to look at; it's significance lay entirely in certain invisible conditions." (George Eliot - Middlemarch)

In the summer of 2005 I walked over the famous crossing outside the Abbey Road studios in London. I was one of a number of people doing the same thing. It seemed remarkable that we should have all come here to walk over a zebra crossing. Judging by the graffiti on the walls of the studio some people had come a very long way to do this. I took my turn to cross over. There was something in the ordinariness of what I was doing which made my short journey from one pavement to another all the more remarkable. It was like my own personal Rubicon, that little river in northern Italy which Caesar made such a big deal of crossing. No Roman general with an army was supposed to cross the Rubicon, a measure designed to protect Rome from internal revolution. Caesar's crossing of a little stream had big consequences.

In the famous picture on the Abbey Road album sleeve the Beatles were crossing to the other side. There are of course allusions in the picture to crossing over, Ringo's undertaker's outfit, Paul's bare feet, John dressed in angelic white, and George as the gravedigger in his jeans. These are all references to the kind of unfathomable, final, irrevocable journey to the other side that occurs at the end of life; but in this case the journey is happening on a zebra crossing in St Johns Wood, London. Perhaps the picture is suggesting that all crossings over, no matter how major they might seem to be, are in fact like walking over a zebra crossing. You could see this as worrying, since in seeming to cross over to something better, it turns out that one side of the road is much like the other. The Beatles were always trying to cross over, to a better life of fame and fortune, or to a more spiritual level of life with the help of their gurus. In spite of all this they found themselves back in Abbey Road walking over a zebra crossing. You could of course take the reassuring point of view that none of life's crossings are as major and final as they seem. Crossing at the Abbey Road zebra crossing was the best kind of ordinary everyday trip to the other side. It's not often a tourist information web site can offer such a journey.

See our page on the Bronze Age Flag Fen monument in Cambridgeshire for another and much older version of the Abbey Road crossing.

Directions: Abbey Road is in St John's Wood, London, which is quite a walk from Central London. From Oxford Street go north along Regent Street, turn left into Marylebone Road, and then make your way down to Lissom Grove which is a left turning. Continue up Lissom Grove, which becomes Grove End Road, which leads into Abbey Road. The famous crossing is the first one you come to, just outside the Abbey Road studios on the left. The nearest Underground Station is St John's Wood. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on the Abbey Road crossing.

 

Graffiti on the Wall of the Abbey Road Studios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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