Susie Rushton: A timewaster for casual voyeurs

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

The front door of our house, its neglected balcony, the wilting pelargoniums on our neighbour's windowsill. That Ford Ka, badly parked, as usual. A generous sprinkling of dog mess on the pavement: yes, that's all very familiar. This is what my life looks like, according to Google Earth Street View, the latest stalk-a-rama mapping function for stalkers, terrorists and geeks. Tap in my postcode and, I – and anyone else in the world with internet access – can examine my house and street from every angle.

That's only the start. Constructed from a zillion photographs taken at various times of day, the free, 360-degree view programme covers almost all public areas seen from a London road – with the exception of The Mall, the front of the American Embassy and Vogue House, home of Condé Nast magazines (are their pictures still at the retouchers?).

But what's the point of Street View? It's a fun toy (the makers of Where's Wally have already hijacked it) and a cultural watershed (so has the Tate). It means never again saying, "Oh, this doesn't look anything like I'd expected". Most of all, it's a timewaster for casual voyeurs, despite some sensible limitations: faces and registration plates are fuzzed out, and you can only see what happened to be going on in the street at the very moment that Google's camera car cruised past. Outside the tradesman's entrance of The Ivy, the dawn deliveries for lunch service are just arriving; in a different postcode, the sun is setting over the East London Mosque.

But I also notice that Street View is a pre-crunch portrait of London. Most of the photographs appear to have been taken last summer, if you go by the foliage of trees and the skimpy clothes worn by unsuspecting pedestrians – not to mention the ghostly presence of several now-defunct restaurants. Old Bond Street throngs with women laden with shiny designer shopping bags on each arm. Woolworths on Brixton Road is still trading. Shirtsleeved men in the streets around Bank Tube station look like they're walking with a spring, rather than a mortal stagger, in their step. But before nostalgia rushes in, I comfort myself with the thought that even in the last golden days of the boom, dogwalkers on our road didn't pick up their pets' poo.

Men and their menus

Rather than review restaurants, the delightfully sedate style magazine Fantastic Man asks dozens of metropolitan types what, where and with whom they ate supper on a given night. We learn that on 5 February, the playwright Alan Bennett and Rupert Thomas, editor of The World of Interiors, dined at their Camden home on breaded plaice and tartare. Rocker Bryan Adams also cooked at home – a surprisingly ascetic meal of veggie burgers and grapefruit sorbet – but the fashion designer Giles Deacon had to make do with a reheated tray of chicken in vegetable cream sauce on board a BA flight to Milan. And they say glamour is dead.