So as you perhaps saw in the previous post I went walking in Dunwich with national treasure Clare Balding for the BBC radio programme “Ramblings.” And she asked me, the way you do, “So what is psychogeography, Geoff?” and I was ready. I had a bit of paper in my top pocket with Guy Debord’s dreary old definition written on it: "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”
Clare wasn’t much impressed, and I didn’t expect her to be. I said, as I’ve said before elsewhere, that I think this is just a fancy way of describing what most walkers do all the time without having to be in any way aware of the term psychogeography. Different views are no doubt possible.
Our radio walk was intentionally “improvisational,” i.e. not very well planned, and we’d already come to a couple of places where we had to make a choice between one path and another. In each case we’d both immediately agreed which path to take. And I said that’s kind of how it always is, you get a vibe and you decide to follow it, you choose one way rather than another, and you go the way you like the look of.
And Clare Balding said, and I’m paraphrasing here, yes but isn’t it different for each individual? Some people would choose one way, some would choose another, implying that there aren’t actually any precise laws at work here, just personal tastes and preferences. I couldn’t have agreed more. OK, hold that thought.
I was staying in London, in Highgate with Martin Bax, a very old friend indeed. Martin’s a bit the worse for wear these days, but he was still able to walk with me to and from the Tube station at the end of the road. He did it partly as exercise, partly just to get out of the house and partly to be friendly. It wasn’t a great expedition, maybe 20 minutes round trip, but I was glad to see him still mobile even if he isn’t moving vey fast these days
But here’s a thing: over the years I must have walked between the Tube station and Martin’s house a hundred times or more, but every time I’d done it I always walked on same the same side of the street, the south side, the side that connects more directly the station entrance. But now when I walked with Martin he insisted we walk on the other side, the north side, the sunny side of the street.
This didn’t signal any antagonism or ideological difference between Martin and me, but it did suggest that we weren’t responding to any precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment; Martin just liked to be warm.