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

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

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

These Other Flowers

Thu 9 Apr 2020: Two unbirthday walks for Edward Thomas (7 min read)

So the first time we had got it together to go on the birthday walk organized by the Edward Thomas Fellowship and … it was cancelled: not because of coronavirus but because of the wettest February on record. The ground was waterlogged and there was storm damage in the hangers – the densely wooded hills above the village of Steep, Hampshire, which were home to the poet and his family in the decade before World War I, and the locus of inspiration for much his late-flowering poetry.… More

Ehrendorf’s Second Law

‘In human affairs, things tend inevitably to go wrong. Things are slightly worse at any given moment than at any preceding moment.’ Friday 20 Mar 2020 (4min read)

It seems a bit daft firing up my walking diary at the very point when the possibilities for walking have become so restricted. But it probably isn’t a coincidence. The urge to write often comes from the pain of exile. We’re all exiles now.

Felden
Felden, 12 Feb 2020: Who let the dog out?
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Au revoir

Peter Cook ‘I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.’ 31.01.20. Aftermyth of War

I had been here before of course, the day we voted leave on 23.6.16. My aim then was to walk to Berkhamsted along the line of Grim’s Ditch. It would, I thought, provide me with the first chapter of my book. The walk was part of the problem, I now think.… More

Vanishing Men

The rifle range on Berkhamsted Common: A journey with maps.

rifle butt
Berkhamsted Rifle Range, May 2017, author for scale.

For a couple of years now I have helped my father, Brian Shepherd, lead a walk for the Graham Greene Festival. The walk tracks the Berkhamsted author over the common of his childhood and teases out references from Greene’s autobiographical writing and his fiction especially his later novel, The Human Factor (1978), which is partly set in Berkhamsted.… More

Camden’s Rubbish

Yesterday (3 /5/17), thinking it was Tuesday, I ran away to Enfield Lock and walked with the forest rarely out of eye shot, to Epping town. I had that pleasurable buzz of playing hooky all morning – until I realized it was in fact Wednesday and I should have been walking anyway. But it was a good wheeze whilst it lasted. Free from the constraint of thinking I had to generate words for my shepherd & dog, I found little vignettes of nature’s delights dropping on my head like plum-coloured bird lime.… More

Spring from the Bunker

Oddly enough I had switched off the Today program on Wednesday morning (22 March). I only ever listen to five minutes whilst I’m making porridge so it has to be pretty bad for me to hit the off button early. I objected to the casual Moslem-bating tone of someone taking the piss out of the idea of virgins in heaven. I wondered what Christians do up there all day long. I couldn’t quite imagine them listening to the Today program.… More

Garden of Love

1 March. The weather in Trumpland, according to the New York Times, had turned to “sunshine & civility” during his address to the two houses of Congress. Here it didn’t get above 6 degrees in the afternoon. Cloudy and irritable: at least, I was. In fact, following rivers through the north eastern burbs, dressed head to toe in black and grey, I felt I bore the same relation to the earth as a passing cloud.… More