Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Berlin wall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Berlin wall. Show all posts

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Since I’ve been thinking about walking in gardens, I inevitably thought about walking in parks, which inevitably meant I returned to Travis Elborough’s book A Walk in the Park  – now out in paperback - and I find this passage:
“There are few sights in England that can quite equal the absurd charm of the imitation Khyber Pass in Hull’s East Park. This slice of South Asia in the East Riding sits just a short stroll away from an animal house that is home to alpacas from Peru and a lake where oversized swan pedalo boats bob about. The park was planned and opened to honour Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and the pass was dreamed up by its supervisor Edward Peak and fashioned in artificial rock and material foraged from the Hull Citadel, an old fort that had once defended the town’s port.”

Now it so happens that I know a couple of people with Hull connections and they were familiar with East Park, and had even been walking there, but perhaps inevitably they’d never heard of this Khyber Pass replica, despite the presence in the park of this informative sign:

I think you’d have to say that as replicas go it’s not the most faithful recreation you’ve ever seen, especially since it involved the copy of an Arab doorway from Zanzibar, which doesn't seem to have a whole lot to do with the Khyber Pass.

The actual Khyber Pass looked like this back then,

And it looks like this now:

And I began to wonder how easy it would be to walk through dislocated or simulated geographical features of the world.  The boundary wall of Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester has been in the news lately - a Brutalist bit of concrete that locals refer to as the Berlin Wall.  It doesn’t look so bad to me but it’s apparently “much hated” by locals, and the news is that there are now plans to demolish it.

There used to be the Garden of Allah here in Los Angeles, though not a garden at all, but a hotel on Sunset Boulevard run by one Alla Nazimova (real name Adelaida Yakovlevna Leventon), and occasional home to the likes of Errol Flynn, Dorothy Parker, Scott Fitzgerald et al.  It was demolished in 1959, but a replica has been being built at Universal Studios, Florida, and is used as a media center.

There is also the Garden of Gethsemane in Tucson, which contains sculptures of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion which (unless my biblical knowledge is even sketchier than I think it is) did not take place in said garden.

The “real” Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem (its original location is disputed, so this may itself be a replica)  looks like this:

There’s also London Bridge in Havasu City, Arizona, which Mr. Elborough has written about at length, but that’s a transplant of the thing itself, not a replica.  The Shoreline walking trail will take you right under it, through Rotary Park.

So I emailed young Elborough and asked him if he thought there was any meaningful distinction to be drawn between what constitutes a park and what constitutes a garden.  He offered this, “I think more generally public gardens tended be bequests of existing private gardens - though not always - and usually smaller and horticultural, lacking sports fields etc. but god knows!”  That’s good enough for me, for now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


We know that Oliver Sacks is not a man who does things by half.  Some people might trip and fall while out walking, and end up with a twisted ankle. When Dr. Sacks falls, the results are dramatically catastrophic.  In his book A Leg to Stand On he meets a bull while walking on a mountain path in Norway.  He turns and runs, falls down the mountain, tears off his quadriceps, crawls for an hour or three, is found by reindeer hunters, stretchered to safety, goes back to England, has a big operation, and tumbles into an existential tail spin.  This of course is good for the writing even as it may be bad for the body and mind.

And things haven’t got any better with age for Sacks.  In his new book Hallucinations he’s walking across his office, trips over a box of books, falls headlong and breaks his hip.  Thus: “I thought I have plenty of time to put out my hand to break the fall, but then – suddenly, I was on the floor, and as I hit, I felt the crunch in my hip.  With near-hallucinatory vividness in the next few weeks, I reexperienced my fall; it replayed itself in my mind and body.” Well, of course it did, Dr. Sacks.

 I’ve also been reading Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace, which is sometimes kind of annoying but sometimes very readable and once in a while very moving.  And walking is occasionally involved.  Neil’s father, who was a journalist and a pretty good dad by all accounts, eventually suffered from Alzheimer’s, becoming in Young’s words “there and not there” and after a while he was “just gone.”
Young writes, “Last time we were at the farm we went for one of our many walks.  We always took long walks in the forest together when I visited him, at the farm or anywhere … On that day when we were back on the farm walking, Daddy got lost.  That really was the last walk we went on together.”

I haven't been able to find an image of Oliver Sacks walking, but above is one of him at least standing up. It seems, incidentally, that Oliver Sacks gets lost all the time.  In an interview with the New York Times he said, “A friend gave me a hat with a built-in compass, since I have no sense of direction. It beeps when you face north and the intensity of the beeps shows how close you are. I like to think it’s improving my awareness but truthfully, I don’t think I’m getting any better. And I get a little embarrassed wearing a hat that beeps.”

It was actually easier than I thought to find an image of Neil Young walking.  Here he is by the Berlin wall in the early 80s.  BUt perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.  After all, Neil Young did write a song titled Walk On.  The chorus runs as follows:
     Walk on, walk on,
     Walk on, walk on.