This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
An isolarion is apparently a 15th-century depiction of a particular geographical location in close detail, in isolation (get it?) from its wider context, and that’s the approach that James Attlee has taken with his account of his “pilgrimage” up and down Cowley Road, East Oxford’s shopping artery. This diverse, messy street, which for so long has been neglected by the town council, is a mecca for locals and students alike delving into the various shops and services which simply aren’t available in the city centre.
Of course, recently the town council did a lot of redevelopment on Cowley Road, making it a nightmare to navigate for cars, trucks, and bikes alike, and consequently even less pleasant to stroll around on for pedestrians. This would seem to me to be evidence that the sort of jolly, multiculturally diverse, wonderfully shambolic and deliriously unplanned Cowley Road that Attlee so loves is only possible when the authorities aren’t paying attention to it, and Attlee sometimes approaches that idea himself. But more on that later.