From the office to the baguette shop

Here’s my first poem on my wolking blag. Blakling wog. Whatever.

I write poetry sometimes. I call it poetry, but then others may not name it so, as poetry is all about structure and relationship, like music, flowing with a strong sense of scientia bene movendi. It’s a nice ideal, but the thing I most like in poetry is not a metre but rhythm – musical links and melodic idiosyncrasies. See Olivier Messiaen’s relationship with melody and his Stravinskyist developments with the concept of rhythm.  This provides colouIMGP0351_xlarger in the flow and a non-metrical propulsion, and a unique ability to create within phrases crescendi and climax.

Anyhoo, this is my act of walking to my local baguette shop. It is annotated for little reason:

From the office[1] to the baguette shop[2]

[3]I often walk down this street[4]
but never in the same activity –
the brain cranes[5],[6] no business[7] trite[8]
but Supers[9] thought by gravity[10]

My vanity[11] is taught by what it gleans
on fells pikes Pillar gables or Grike
up gills ghylls dales dens or deep glens[12]
of wind-rushing rain and lightning strike

Alike to the extinction of atmosphere
this street a [13]sore neap[14] of archi…[15]
not arty but of kirky existential metaphor
a kindness of urban organ…[16] anarchy

Arching trudge, pillared step (in this tensile street are novels)[17]
each walk a balk of ecstatic-mad other-love
I’m living in the other-life of fell-ridden vales,
cracking leaves, archi-slate, my ’trepid mush push to shove:

Away with me…

(‘Egg mayo and bacon,[18] if you please’)

[1] 21 Dean’s Yard SW1P.
[2] The Dairy, Strutton Ground.
[3] Song with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.
[4] Victoria Street, Westminster.
[5] Cranes, from cranium, the brain enclosure.
[6] Cranes are indispensible in Vic-Street-style building industry.
[7] Department for Business, Innovation, Skills, Job-creation, Stuff, and Nonsense.
[8] Pararhyming.
[9] the activity of a senior police constable – sitting at his desk in the HQ, ‘Supering’.
[10] My own preferred reality.
[11] Repetition.
[12] Geographical features – hills and valleys – of the Cumbrian Fells.
[13] The forefather of existentialism.
[14] Fairly randomly (superficially) – a sea-sore-eaten hill at HP 596 160.
[15] Archi+tecture would describe what Vic Street has none of.
[16] Organ+ised and anarchy are two sides of the same Vic Street coin, therefore organanarchy.
[17] Gothic enthusiasm.  Arch=good. Tensile stress=bad.
[18] My favourite.

UPDATE: The Dairy has now closed, to be replaced by yet another capitalist member of a chain of expensive and unnecessary coffee providers.


Birthday Walk

It wasn’t my birthday, and indeed it hasn’t been my birthday for a terrible long count of days now, but for what was, but now wasn’t, my birthday, my better half, who always has better ideas, took me on a birthday walk. It was a challenge. Not like rocks and ropes and things, but more like wine and wine and things.  It was a Hidden City adventure. An adventure that was hidden in the city.

I think my transformation is finally complete. I’m a city person. A city person from the country – a polyped. I’m bisceneried, able to balance on mud and concrete like a French tractor. I wonder if six years is a long time for a complete contradiction to become acceptable. Has anyone done a chronological study of transitions from country to city? Of all the people I know from the country who now live smoggy lives, they manage the transition with the ease with which Mendelssohn modulates. I’m more Wagner – never at ease until the sun has set on the gods.

The Hidden City adventure was interesting, a little capitalist maybe, but interesting. We only spent about £60 on a few glasses of the most delicious wine from Vinoteca and other places. Vinoteca sounds like a noise Dr Evil would make while enacting an uneasy and idiosyncratic dance. But London has so many corners, not one lane looks the same as the next, save some sandwich shops. In New York one can’t get lost despite potato waffles, but in London it’s the unfamiliarity of each street which provokes memory and a perceptive understanding of location.


Why go walking in any shire other than Shropshire? The only corner of the world where one can cross 5376 different geological full stops in one day. Or thereabouts. Shropshire is also home to one of the most visible objects from space – Wenlock Edge.

Wenlock EdgeWenlock Edge, if beGoogled or beBinged from space, has the appearance of a short but more Roman Great Wall of China; leaping off the satellite image like an old high-speed railway line. At the time of writing, a certain search-“engine” shows HS1 as a great wound of bare planet swiping across Kent like the opening of Un chien andalou.  But Wenlock Edge has borne its age well: a line of woodland stretches sixteen or so miles in an unmitigated straight line from southwest to northeast, supported by incised waves of ancient geomorphological interest on its southeastern side.

At the northeastern end of the Edge lies, and it really does lie, the most quaint of tiny towns, Much Wenlock, birthplace of the modern Olym… It’s an old story.  Much Wenlock is on top of the plateau that is created by Wenlock Edge, and so a good circular walk in at least two directions will eventually require a steep wooded descent. And so a good circular walk in at least two directions will eventually require a steep wooded ascent right at the end of the day. It’s completely perverse to have a town on top of a hill in our climate, though to be in Wenlock’s hollow you wouldn’t realise it (the height, not the climate).

This weekend I helped, I say “helped”, recce a walk from Much Wenlock for the U3A. The destination was St Peter and St Paul’s church in a little village called Sheinton, off the Edge to the north. The church was closed for redecoration, but more deterrent than that would have been needed.

One day of being tired of London

I promised myself that my shiny new blog would never resort to having posts dedicated to malhappiness, but this is the first and last.

Normally a walk is a peaceful affair. They happen with good grace, and the spirit of enjoyment pervades each step, ideally. Obviously there are niggles and gripes which ooze out of the grikes and clints of paving slabs which matter nothing beyond the current line of sight.  However, today was a day of noise.

The first thing was the helicopter at 4 in the a.m. chasing around south London looking for one missing person. The second thing was Spotify all day, really all day, in the office. My choice. The third thing was the helicopter at 5.30 in the p.m. chasing around south London looking for goodness-knows-what. They apologised to spectators at the Oval who were obviously more disturbed by the noise than the 50000 people trying to sleep before a tough day in the bureau.

And on the way home (bear in mind I like to stand my ground on a pavement; for example, if a line of slow-moving tourists, the breadth of the sidewalk, look calamitously unprepared for an encounter, I will not stop and turn sideways to make myself minimal) I was approached by two taller (therefore quite tall) and more powerfully dressed individuals, one of which refused to give way, instead, accelerating in my direction,  asked with all the wit and evolutionary blindness of a dog pissing against a lamppost, “Where are you goin’, bruv’?”  Well, it didn’t take me long to work out from the movement of my legs that I was travelling in the opposite direction to them.  There are a few undiscovered things in the human psyche which I enjoy unravelling, like winkling a Winkle, but this one has me stumped.  Was my contrapuntal movement not obvious? So I pointed in my direction of travel and said simply “That way.” “OK”, said he.

Like, duhhhhhhhhhhhh. Quote, unquote.

My second gin and tonic is now fitting into the evening quite mellifluously.

Henry Moore – Reclining Figure No 3

Image One of the many adventures gained by not travelling along bus lanes or through underground used toilet rolls, is that there is art.  Real, created art, and not just keep-me-happy tokenism.  There is, however, a six-and-two-threes situation, in that the best buildings are more often away from my away-from routes. But stand-by-themselves, anti-hyphenated designs have by previous regimes been placed in my way.

This is Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure No 3 from 1961. It’s in two pieces. Moore found the versatility of the separation of two parts of the figure to be justifiably landscape-like, the features of the figure become it’s surrounding territory. A kind of anti-geomorph. And with the separation comes the added sense of the three dimensions; a more perfect third-dimensional aspect of discovery. This can only be experienced by walking. One must travel around the sculpture, it is art that requires a movement – forward – exactly as the walker becomes addicted to walking through necessity.

The piece(s) recline in the Brandon Estate in Southwark. The estate was built between 1957 and 1961, and the Reclining Figure was sited there on its own enticing hillock in 1962. There it still reclines. A year or two ago, the heavyweight Two Forms by Barbara Hepworth was removed from Dulwich Park in an act of Danny Ocean-style removalry, and now, surreptitiously, surrounding the Recliner are even heavier non-glacial erratic lumps of gneiss, which may or may not be Lewisian. The mica glints in the sun.

The Beehive

The Beehive

This is The Beehive. Tucked away in the backstreets of Walworth, only I could possibly find it or know about it. (Everyone else uses main roads.) This is pub-the-favourite on my walk home.

After realising, by my first blogging about beer and walking, that beer was quite an important part of walking, I had to stop there for a quick one. A blog, I imagine, is something that happens after the event, but it turns out that the blog inspired the event. So much so that we had to go back for more quick ones later. Plus fish and chips – the best fish and chips since 2000 in a posh hotel in Lerwick – in a London Pride batter.

Apart from the pleasant reading material, the new art on the walls (some more convincingly created than others), the beer (only Sharp’s and Fuller’s), the friendly photographs of prime ministers, the tables made obviously from trees, the welcome smile as though I go there after work every evening (I don’t); the best thing about this delightful bizarrely not-even-a-lucky-dip pub, is that it’s not too far to walk home to the loo afterward.

New blog, new walk

From before the first animal decided to walk for fun, if walking be for fun, I am*. It’s one of two important things I cannot remember the beginning of. The other is playing the piano.

There are stories and corroborative photographs which tell of exploits which I have no memory of and therefore had no control over.  Parents are beneficial, and I’m sure that is the reason for why I cannot do anything but walk and play the piano – there was never a beginning to these things.  Like eating and sleeping, they’ve existed since before there could have been a ‘since’.

It would be impossible to leave these things alone out of boredom, but we do all we can to make the best out them.  We munch sugar as it’s good to sustain the addiction of fun things, and drink drugs. I just drink the drugs: I can’t stand sweet things. A good ale, a good walk, an open fire; these are my geographic requirements.

Anyway, this is London. Ale is provided in quantities and prices yet unnamed, open fires are outlawed (though walking through Camberwell on a still, star-attempted night, the woodsmoke wisps linger), and real walking for fun is a challenge unrecognised by Londonist footwear, earwear, extra-bodily apostrophes, and time. Or so they think.

I walk everywhere. Why not? In time it is equalled only by cycling and car-driving. “I walk everywhere”, I told the officer behind the desk in the Jury Service waiting area as I informed her of my inextant travel expenses. “Oh, yeah! I power-walk too.” I thought we might have exchanged the trees and details on buildings we pass that nobody else notices – those possessions owned by walkers, and exchanged with more mutual glee than almost anything I’ve experienced. I was in a queue of people who had the misfortune to be standing up. I had to wait until I got home to find out about power-walking.

In London I walk for the absolute rebellious nature of being reliant on nobody but clothing manufacturers and bridge engineers. It’s free, it’s impossible to be late by accident, and apparently there are things called health benefits (though these are the last reasons for walking for fun).  I never have an umbrella, sunglasses, nor ear wires telling me things I’m not looking at.

And why start a blog? Because we don’t have room in our flat for anything else.  Where would I possibly fit the letter W?

Today I walked to work, and I’ll walk home again. (I’m at work.) That’s a total of at least 5.02 miles by my reckoning, depending on my route, of which there are about 27 general possibilities of similar length. All routes pass pubs, none of which serve the best beer in town. The highest point on any route is the bridge over the Thames. I walk to work every day, and that adds up to about 1200 miles each year. And that’s excluding everywhere else that needs or wants to be walked to.

The greyest, most yellow-brown cloud since May has just turned up, so I may get wet on the way home. But that’s just the way it’s meant to be…


*that’s from somewhere in the Bible.