Spoke 136 – Building of the Month

l to r: 186 Fleet St., Holborn Library from Jockey’s Fields, Dolphin Tavern, Red Lion St., Camley St rail bridge: 10 Foot, 4.1 Metres

It comes back to this: you have to write for yourself. At least, I do. I write to check I still have a pulse. I write to make connections – any connections, if I’m honest – because I find it hard to make narrative connections that most people take for granted. The bits of your brain that fire up with thoughts of your children or grandchildren or dogs mean absolutely zip to me.… More

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Spoke 67 – Freightliners Blues

Old Coroners Court, Islington

I walked around St Mary Magdalen Gardens on the Holloway Road today, past the sociable huddles of street drinkers. I wasn’t exactly in the mood for collecting headstones – or ordering one, but in the south-east corner of the park, I noticed the Old Coroners Court. In one way, the juxtaposition was entirely understandable. The church could provide solace for the grieving, could frame their search for answers – or at least answer a different question if they didn’t like any of the answers available.… More

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Spoke 339 – Effects of volcanic action on the pandemic

I didn’t need to work off a mood this week. In fact, I didn’t have a mood at all so listened to Will Self’s Umbrella for a good part of my march to Finchley. It is quite spooky (spoky) how it fit like old skin. Zack Busner, the protagonist, even lives in a flat on Fortess Road. I love the name which conjures up images of a pulp detective, which in a way he is: a psychiatrist, a detective of the mind.… More

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Spoke 207 – Last Number Redial

I got chatting to an old boy on a bench next to the Serpentine. He had been in the Navy: submarines, mostly. By way of conversation, I said I’d just been reading that a quarter of the army could be robots in ten years time. He told me that the regular army had been robots since 1906. He said that when contractors went into Knightsbridge Barracks a few years ago, they were amazed to find that none of the services had ever been used.… More

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Spoke 219 – Speke

Tuesday 03 November 2020 (2 min read)

I enjoyed the colours of the leaves along the Regents Canal. And the colours of the African Hunting Dogs which remind me of cave art. No two of them have the same markings, apparently. My photos were blurry sadly, but they were pacing around. They knew something was up: which is more than I did. They mostly eat ‘antelope and wildebeest but often warthogs, zebra and even lizards’. I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down an ambassador if he happened, somehow, to fall into the enclosure:)

I took a slightly better pic of canal-workers (fried breakfasts, doorstep sandwiches, roasts, pies, beers).… More

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Spoke 157 – Lambeth Walk

Thursday 22nd October 2020 (2 min read)

I was so frazzled from Kentish Town Road that I ducked down back streets: Greenland Place – named after a person rather than a country – and Bayham Street. Here I heard a bang and, looking up, saw a man on a bike spinning away from a car. It was my second accident of the week. London is a madhouse of cov-psychotic driving at the moment. The only safe roads are ones where traffic has come to a standstill, which luckily means all the main routes into and out of central London.… More

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Spoke 307 – Chalk Farm Mystery

Friday 16th October 2020 (3 min read)

I didn’t know it before I set out, but today I would be mostly linking up farms. I can’t point you to a historical ‘Chalk Farm’, but the name suggests the rural vibe of the area before London swallowed it in the nineteenth century. Here cockneys came to ruralise, and slighted gentlemen might seek redress beyond the gaze of the law.

Later, I was excited by an article titled ‘Chalk Farm Mystery’ in the South London Press, 1899.… More

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Spoke 317 – Gloriously Dead

Hendon, Wed 7 October 2020

I wanted to go for long walks without taking public transport. I didn’t want to walk myself into the ground or bore myself rigid linking up the same green corridors in my dog-eared, much-loved in its day, OS Explorer Map 173, which lost its cover many years ago. In fact, before the visitation, I had managed to convince myself – not without some justification – that I had walked every single footpath near the Northern Line.… More

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Paper, Scissors, Gone Again

Grand Union Canal near Berkhamsted, Nash Mills, Sheppeys Lane, Bedmond, field near Shenley
Grand Union Canal near Berkhamsted, Nash Mills, Sheppeys Lane, Bedmond, field near Shenley

This mp3 is a walk I used to do every year at midsummer in the early 2010s. The walk, from Berkhamsted to Kentish Town was 36 miles and used most of the daylight on the longest day of the year. A text version is available on the excellent Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive.

Mon 22 Jun 2020: Introduction. (2 min read, 350 words)

I am proud of it – the writing, not the walk, although I can see its faults.… More

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Captain Goffey and the Adventure of the Five Bells

 Thu 18 Jun 2020: Further adventures of Captain Goffey RN. (16 min read; 3222 words)

Heron
‘In former times I would always stop to look at a heron fishing below the weir at Mutton Bridge.’

The nightingale and thrush
Blackbird and wren
Are all praised to death
And then praised again

I’ll hitch my flag
To a grey piece of rag
And salute the mighty heron

[‘The Heron’, from Captain Goffey’s Journal, published in the posthumous collection ‘A Fire-Eater at the North Pole’]

The Diary of Dr Thomas Watson, Surgeon of HMS Jupiter

Today I noticed that Captain Goffey has started writing in one of the account books we discovered last week.… More

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