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 Stonehenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stonehenge. Show all posts

Monday, February 24, 2014


If you go to the website caughtbytheriver.net (and why wouldn’t you?) you’ll find and extract/sampler/cut up from the opening of Walking in Ruins.  It starts like this:

By Geoff Nicholson

  If, like me, you happen to have written a book titled The Lost Art of Walking, people tend to ask you, “What’s your favourite walk?” I always find this a really difficult question. I want to answer honestly, and I definitely don’t want to be evasive or pretentious, but the answer always escapes me.
More and more I find that if I’m in walking in an area of unspoiled natural beauty, or in a city of great vistas and magnificent architecture, I’ll be impressed, I’ll be appreciative, but the truth is, I’m often slightly bored in these places. Only a fool would bad-mouth the Champs-Élysées or the Lake District, but I just don’t get very excited about walking there. Whereas if I’m walking along a beach and discover some ruined bungalows, or if I’m at the edge of a city and find a wrecked and abandoned warehouse or barn, then I’m fascinated, I’m moved. And that’s why I’ve written a new book titled Walking in Ruins.

You can read the full piece (and much more besides) on the website here:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


 If you’re a Facebook friend of Sonic Youth (and let’s face it, they’re an easy bunch to befriend), you get to see all sorts of stuff, including images of the band when they were more youthful, if not necessarily more sonic.  The above picture of them walking, or at least standing, at Stonehenge must have been taken pre-1985, before Steve Shelley was the drummer, before Kim Gordon was even a blonde.

walked around Stonehenge for the first time last year.  I’d driven past it in a car a few times but for some reason had never got out and investigated.   These days the casual visitor can’t get very close to the stones at all, and is kept at a distance and has to walk around a pedestrian loop, though I think special “walk among the stones” tours are also available at certain times.  Once it was evidently much easier.

The fact is, just like Sonic Youth, everybody I saw there wants to be photographed posing with the henge in the background, including this Buddhist monk who I thought might have been there with a higher purpose.

Very few of the visitors seemed to be experiencing any deep mystical vibe, but thinking of Britain’s ancient stones led me to Julian Cope, and eventually via the eternal present of the internet, to an interview he did with Sirona Knight and Michael Starwyn at the time his album 20 Mothers was released, in 1995.  The link to the full interview is here:

I haven’t followed Cope’s career all that closely but I know he wrote a book, and did a TV series titled The Modern Antiquarian, which everybody seems to think is a pretty good guide to the ancient sites of Britain.  There’s now a website with the same name.   What I didn’t know, but should probably have guessed, is that he’s apparently a great walker.

In the interview he says he visited over 500 ancient sites, and walked along ancient trackways. "I walk on the sacred landscape with a dictaphone and I sing my songs straight out as the Spirit moves me. That's an artist's duty--to recognize what flame moves within him and I recognized a totally different flame."
“I write on the land. I just walk. Normally it all comes at once. I've walked over 1500 miles in the last 8 months, always on the neolithic trackways. The whole Avebury system is this huge grid of neolithic trackways, ceremonial trackways. Whenever I am reenacting these walks, I am reenacting the walks of people who repeated these ritual walks for 1500 years. I am now able to descend into the mist, into the other dimension.”

         Well, there was certainly none of that going on at Stonehenge when I was there, which is a shame.  Cope also wrote a song titled Gotta Walk.  Lyrics here:

Greedhead policestate
Admit your mistake
Here to go, baby
Here to beat Daddy
Here to catch a falling star
Save yourself some money
Run behind a taxi
Walk behind a funeral car.
Doomy doomy doomy
Yet I'm feelin' gloomy
Still I hate to screw my Ma...
I gotta walk - walk walk walk - gotta walk - I'm hip... I'll walk

Video here if that's the kind of thing that you're into: