The houses are terraced, the aerial view striped green and brown. It is springtime, then early summer. Most people have replied to their invitation with black ink, looping their letters and exclaiming delight, or occasionally regret. The handwriting is evocative, the shapes of the characters outdated, and the letters and cards are oddly similar, housed in creamy thick envelopes, lined and unlined.
83 Sydney Road is behind the white van, the silver car, the post van that might have delivered these pen marks; in an area of comparatively low crime for the region; red-doored and black-; for sale; under grey skies and blue. I can see the buildings from above, and for all of the zoom in, it is only when the street view kicks in that the building becomes obstructed. If I move along the road a little, I can look back at the building in all its oblique allure, asking me to step a little closer, free of its white van and beckoning me, as if suggesting that by moving stealthily enough I can trick the vehicle into not being there. It never works.
I'm annoyed at the non-urban locations too - as clear as the urban ones when seen from the default height - but which flatten maddeningly beneath me as I descend, into their folded-flat foliage and cock-eyed constructions, making less and less sense the closer I get to them. There are far fewer incidental humans here. It's as if the population cannot exist outside the 3D cityscapes, here where the houses flop like a broken pop-up book, and disappear when you turn to face them. Which makes a kind of sense, I suppose.
On the other hand, wonder is to be found in the glitches of transition. Buildings sink into roads, draped in a mesh which mimics their fascias. Buses are stuck in black, beneath which the matrix is exposed, holding the scene up out of the emptiness below. Houses unveil their skeletons, crawling up external walls and looming over outside spaces. Unwitting, unknowable humans are frozen, as if sketched onto an architect's plan. Images from above show streets loaded with tropical colours and soft, trainset bushes, drawing me down, down, closer, closer and then switching abruptly back into the invariable, hard, locked-door grey as I get close enough to really see. I am thirsty for those colours, but the oasis they promised was a mirage. It shimmered, and I fell for it. Thwarted stalker.
I can zoom back out though; catch the image at that moment when it is neither one thing nor the other, when the cold, photographic trees and fences are pulled from their reality and stretch, striping traces behind them before assuming their other, softer, more vibrant versions once more.
“Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them.”
 North London violent crime rate comparison map. www.plumplot.co.uk
 Valla, C. Postcards from Google Earth. www.postcards-from-google-earth.com