In this final instalment of Common People we will look at an egregious instance of ‘Road Capture’ on Berkhamsted Common – the arbitrary closure of a public road by the local landowner – and show how it may always have been part of a cunning plan to enclose (privatise) the central part of the common. We will hear some of the people who put the road out of action (I don’t mean the 7th Earl) – and how local people adapted to the new reality: keeping calm and driving any way they could.… More
Liebesgabe: a charitable gift
The airship crew called their incendiary bombs, twenty-five pounds of thermite wrapped in tarred rope, ‘fire buckets’. At 10:40 they dropped five of them on a field at Decoy Farm in Hendon. The farm took its name from a duck decoy built for the Abbots of Westminster just below the point where the Dollis and Mutton Brook combine to become the Brent. The lake, in Brent Park, is still a feature of the modern landscape.… More
Trench Art, High Barnet – Sandwell School, Finchley
Invisible to drivers hurtling by on the A1, Water End retains the peace, if not the quiet, of a village. It has a small industrial area which until recently supported a workers’ cafe. There are some pretty cottages and, when I started walking here, two pubs whose names echoed a rural economy not quite disappeared a hundred years ago: The Woodman Inn and The Old Maypole. The latter built in c1520 and now a private house was boarded up and for sale in April 2010.… More
This month was a small landmark for the blog: it passed a thousand views. I didn’t keep records before last summer, so I’m very pleased and would like to thank everybody who has looked in. I’m not going to analyse the figures too carefully. I suspect a third of them arrived by accident and never returned. Another third were bots trained to look for phrases like ‘bomb recipe’ and ‘best kitchen knife to do a murder’.… More
‘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
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
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
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
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
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