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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A Raft

Fri 29 May 2020: This is an excerpt from the shipwreck diary of my g2 grandfather, Captain Goffey RN, which I inherited some years ago, and have just begun to transcribe, (4 min read)

Brent Reservoir
‘Surely this was none other than Brent Reservoir, where I had learned to sail as a boy …’

It is now two months since the loss of the Jupiter and her crew – God rest their souls. Her Captain and the ship’s mascot, are, I fear, the only survivors.… More

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Morning Has Broken

Thu 30 Apr 2020: Eleanor Farjeon’s house, N.W.3., July 2015 (2 min read)

Today I revisit a walk from 2015. It involves a lost garden not unconnected to Edward Thomas and feels sort of zeitgeisty: we all seem to enjoy peeping into celebrities’ homes at the moment. The fact that I could revisit the walk without stretching government exercise guidelines is irrelevant. I don’t want to know what it’s like today. It’s hard to find a house in Hampstead that doesn’t have a blue plaque.… More

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