Last Orders Part 3

Admiral Carter, EC1 – D.H. Lawrence at Hampstead

‘So it is the end – our world is gone, and we are like dust in the air…’ DH Lawrence To Lady Ottoline Morrell, 9 September 1915.*

It had been a gift from the bomb factory to the Zeppelin commander. Three-hundred kilograms of high explosive – the biggest bomb of the airship campaign so far. Every single building in the close was damaged by the blast and many buildings set alight by incendiaries.… More

Last Orders Part 2

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

Best Kitchen Knife To Do a Murder

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

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

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

This Wireless Affair

Two post-mortem writings on a Hertfordshire airman. Monday 9 March 2020 [7min read]

The photo was in a book called ‘Talks with Spirit Friends, Bench, and Bar: being descriptions of the next world and its activities by well-known persons who live there, given through the trance mediumship of the late Miss S. Harris to a retired public servant, and recorded by him.’ I’m not sure if copyright law extends the other side of the veil.… 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

A Sentimental Journey

A Sentimental Journey 9 April 2017

I’m not going back to the forest without a paper map and an old fashioned compass. I’d put a route on my phone to the Thomases’ isolated house in the heart of Epping Forest – the poet’s last address in England before he was killed in France a hundred years ago. I had intended to just reverse it when I finished and retrace my steps to the station. I found the place alright.… More