Cold Case 5 – A Kentish Town Panorama

‘It should never rain at a public place, as it prevents intercourse and drives everyone to his own bad lodging to breed spleen and ennui.’

Byng’s Tours, The Journals of The Hon. John Byng 1781-1792.

I threw a ten: ‘J’. I don’t have that many files beginning with J. A couple of people connected to Tring Museum a hundred years ago. Another on Jung, with nothing in it, presumably because it’s all in my subconscious.… More

Cold Case 4 – Roadkill

“No matter how strange or interesting the story, chances are pretty good that at least some raven somewhere actually did that.”
Mark Pavelka, quoted in Mind of the Raven, Heinrich Bernd, 2006

I was on traffic patrol with my wife. Our beat was a couple of thousand feet over Watling Street, between Oswestry and Shrewsbury. It never got really busy in those days. Harvest time would be about as busy as it got. Farmers liked to get their corn to market quickly, or at any rate before the weather changed.… More

Cold Case 2 – Down By the Jetty

Southend Pier
Southend Pier

Of all the places I habitually walk, the Thames Estuary has the biggest claim on my affections. I don’t think I’ve ever had a disappointing walk there. Elation doesn’t always last. But that’s not the fault of the place. Just the fact that whatever chased you out of the house will still be there when you get back.

For years I only did one route, first discovered in the pages of Timeout. I would get the train to Benfleet, about fifty minutes journey from Fenchurch Street, and walk along the creek to Leigh-on-Sea.… More

Cold Case 1 – Ally Pally

Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace

For someone who mostly writes about walking, it is a challenge to write about a walk around the block. James Joyce could do it. Then again, people have walked on the moon: doesn’t mean I can.

I’m not saying you’re interested in my mental health. But if you were, I’ve now, tentatively – because you can’t really diagnose yourself – diagnosed myself with ADHD (I mean on top of the clinical diagnosis of autism I received in 2019).… More

Spoke 25 – County Lines

‘A man should look to his drains before he furnishes his drawing-room.’ Proverb, London, c1870, quoted in Sanitary Engineering, Baldwin Latham, 1873.

I bagged another ghost station today – if abandoned overground railway stations count. A bona fide ghost station needs, like an iceberg, a hinterland that you can’t see. I fumbled with my phone just long enough for the platform to empty of the dead, who were chatting about being professional in meetings, among other things.… More

Spoke 149 – Stranded!

South Bank

A pleasant ramble today, through a ghost town. I avoided main roads except, briefly, the Euston Road, where HS2 protesters had set up camp in the small park in front of Euston Station.

By coincidence, the spoke took me past The Savoy (on The Strand, near Charing X) which didn’t look very barracksy, although was guarded by a gold caped crusader. I enjoyed taking the time to mooch en route, around Old St Pancras Churchyard, for example, and then later, the little lanes to the south of Denmark Street.… More

Spoke 349 – The Dark Side of Thomas Moon

Kenwood

I hadn’t realised I was in such a bad mood. It was sunny. The Heath was busy but not stupid, and by the time I reached Kenwood, I might as well have been on the lip of Etna: whatever was going off in the hollows no longer concerned me.

My destination was Glebelands Nature Reserve, Finchley, a small strip of scrubby woodland in the north-east quarter of the junction between the Great North and North Circular Roads.… More

Spoke Zero.1 – Muswell Hill Mystery Solved

East Grim Echo, Tuesday, 14th April 1896.

Albert Wattle (32) and Henry Daub (31) were arrested at Bath on Monday morning for the murder of Manmountain Ortiste, a retired wrestler, at Muswell Hill.

Returned to London, they were extracted from Paddington via the milk platform abutting the London Road to avoid the crowds gathered at the station demanding to lynch them for the gruesome murder of the elderly wrestler who, though six foot tall and seventeen stone, was arthritic and partially deaf.… More

Spoke Zero – Coldfall

Highgate Wood

I threw zero, which would have taken me a little to the east of Tesco Colney Hatch. With only a little bit of artistic declination, my route took me through a park and three areas of ancient woodland. The furthest point I reached was Coldfall Wood, named by the first hunter-gatherers when the ice sheet, like most people, observed Muswell Hill and turned back.

Now, of course, I realise that my dice are loaded.… More

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