Wednesday, April 16, 2008

As the crow walks

I thought it was just me who had developed this desperate need to walk everywhere. Then I heard Will Self talking about walking from airports to the centre of cities and how it was a need to reconnect yourself with your surroundings.

But there's more. When I leave the office I can either take a short, unpleasant walk to King's Cross to take the tube or a long, pleasant walk to Highbury & Islington and then catch the overground home. I've lately come to the conclusion that the reason I don't take the former is because it's in the wrong direction. Does something happen to you when you reach a certain age that means you can no longer tolerate not heading where you're going? If I'm forced out of my way because of some kink in the transport system I get crosser and crosser and crosser. If I can take the right heading I'm happy, no matter how long the journey is.

I think Paul K. Lyons realised this before me. He's written about what it's like to walk across London in a more or less straight line south to north (which takes him past the end of my road) and east to west. Good to know I'm not alone.


  1. Anonymous1:24 pm

    Didn't Bill Drummond talk about this sort of thing in 45? I think he borrowed the idea from Richard Long.

  2. Anonymous3:34 pm

    Off on a tangent here. Is it true of people you know that they live in the part of London that is nearest to where they arrived from?

    You David, a Yorkshireman, from what you said above live in North London; Mark Ellen, from Fleet via Oxford, lives in South/West London. I also lived in SW London having been brought up in Hants/Surrey.

  3. anon: I oved from the Yorkshire to carshalton deepest darkest south london so the theory deosn't always work. I think in times past there were loads of scots around kingscross but what about south africans in wimbledon?

  4. When I left Eritrea for what I knew would be the last time, I made a point of walking from the centre of Asmara to the airport on the distant outskirts. It was early evening and people were out and about. It was my quiet way of saying goodbye to the city.

    A few year ago Simon Pope wrote a rather frivolous book titled 'London Walking'.

    He suggests a walk in which you turn to the front of the London A-Z, where there is a map of the whole city with a grid superimposed over it, representing the pages. You pick one row of the grid and, using it as a guide, walk across London from east to west, from sunrise to sunset.

    Not only do you journey through a cross-section of the city. You get to experience it at different times of the day.

    I am quite an avid student of London and do this walk once a year.

  5. I would love to walk everywhere, however it's so time-consuming. In the evening, I just want to get home quickly, not eat anymore into my own time.

  6. I love where you just enter two street names or postcodes and it gives you walking directions from point to point. If you're working in The City and have to meet friends in the West End and have 40 mins. to kill before meeting them it's perfect.

    If I have to take a bus home and have time to spare, I won't wait at the bus stop but will always walk to the next stop until eventually (or perhaps not) my arriving at the next bus stop also coincides with a bus arriving, at which point I get on and flash the Oyster. Half the time I end up walking all the way home but it's easy because you can always convince yourself you're only 400 yards or so away from giving up. No running, if a bus is spotted mid-stop, is permitted.

  7. Anonymous10:40 pm

    Backwards7, and other lovers of London, should seek out Geoff Nicholson's terrific novel Bleeding London. One of the various characters, each trying to get to grips with London in their own way, spends his time walking every street in the A-Z. To say more would spoil the book; you'll have just have to trust me and seek it out in your bookshop or library.

  8. If London was really like "Neverwhere", I'd take some walks there too. Does anyone remember that programme? Very clever I thought.

  9. Anonymous9:21 am

    The book of Neverwhere is better than the television programme, I think. The programme suffered from lack of budget and some clunking exposition. According to the blog of Neverwhere's author Neil Gaiman, this very morning, plans for a movie have been revived after several years in the development wilderness.