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.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


John Aubrey (1626 – 1697), he of Brief Lives fame, is in the news, if you can call it news.  There’s a new scholarly edition of his great work, the first since 1898, according to the publisher.  The full title is John Aubrey: Brief Lives with An Apparatus for the Lives of our English Mathematical Writers. It’s edited by Kate Bennett, runs to just under 2000 pages, and costs $400 or so – well, Christmas is coming.
Adam Smyth in a review in the London Review of Books writes, “Like all antiquaries Aubrey is fascinated with the loss his endeavours would seem to oppose” – which I think is one of the great sentences.

Naturally I went scurrying to my own, $4 paperback copy of Brief Lives, and opening it more or less at random found Aubrey writing about John Milton:

His exercise was chiefly walking.
“He was an early riser (4 am); yea, after he lost his sight. He had a man read to him. The first thing he read was the Hebrew Bible, and that was at 4.30. Then he contemplated.
“After dinner he used to walk 3 or four hours at a time (he always had a garden where he lived); went to bed about 9.”

I had never imagined Milton to be much of a walker, what with the blindness and all, though walking certainly features in his work: Adam and Eve walking out of the Garden Eden in Paradise Lost for instance:

He also wrote, in Book 4:
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep.”

Which is bruited about on various websites as some kind of inspirational and consoling message, though I must say it has rather the opposite effect on me.

Aubrey himself was surely quite a walker. His four volume Monumenta Britannica must have involved plenty of legwork.  It recorded 30 years of visiting ancient sites around Britain, and gives him a claim to be the father of archeology.  We certainly know that he walked at Avebury and at Stonehenge, where he went with Charles II who suggested that Aubrey start digging in the earth in the hopes of finding a few human remains.  Aubrey declined.  

At Stonehenge there are a series of what are now known as Aubrey Holes.  They’re the white dots on this plan:

I wonder what it would be like to have holes named after you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


“Ultramarathoner Cesar Guarin has taken the concept of walking and meditation to a whole new level.”

That’s what it says here anyway, in an article from the Philippine Daily Enquirer.  I’d never heard of him and I feel reasonably sure that he’s never heard of me, and I can’t help thinking he’s far more of a runner than he is a walker, but in any case he’s now opened an art gallery in Quezon City, and Feliciano Rodriguez III quotes me approvingly in an article about him. 

You can read the whole article here:

Friday, October 2, 2015


I often say (I mean often enough that it probably irritates people) that you can’t walk in the same street twice.  Then I add that you can’t walk in the same street once.  This is about as Zen as I ever get.  And there’s a street in Hollywood, Franklin Avenue that I walk down all the time, I mean really all the time, and suddenly a couple of days ago saw something, arguably two things, that I’d never seen, or at least noticed, before.  There was a doorway situated between a couple of eateries (Birds and The Bourgeois Pig, with mysterious stairs leading up into darkness and a sign saying Duarte Salon.

I found this intriguing, and so, being a man who expects too much, I imagined the Duarte Salon was some kind of decadent Bohemian hangout where louche types lolled on velvet couches and sipped absinthe.  Well, that’s too much imagination you’ve got the Geoff.  Duarte Salon, I discover online, is a fancy hairdressers offering, in addition to the old cut and blow, trichological services and the revolutionary technique of "X-presion Creativos."

So, not much there for me, but curiously, and maybe you spotted it at once - whereas it’s taken me about 10 years – there’s a bit of street art next to the door, that I assume is the work of Invader.

You may remember Invader, if you remember him at all, from the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.  He’s a Frenchman who goes around the world making and installing mosaics, some of them very small, some less so.  But in general his work is so discreet and it’s hard to imagine anybody objecting to it, which is no doubt why it tends to remain in place for so long.  Also possibly because many people, myself included in this case, don’t even know it’s there.

In fact his website suggests that I walk past his lots of his work all the time.  He’s got a couple of mosaics stuck on the Hollywood sign for instance, though admittedly not many people get to walk very close to the Hollywood sign.

But there are also these two right on Hollywood Boulevard, never seen by me till now. I guess there’s so much happening at street level there that few people ever look up. 

Anyway, having spotted the Duarte/Invader nexus I continued walking around my ‘hood and spotted another sign I’d never seen before, this one:

To be fair to myself this one actually was brand new, and similar ones had gone up all over the local streets in just the past few days.  Clearly it’s meant to stop people feeding coyotes, which are a bit of a thing in the neighbourhood – you sometimes see them walking down the middle of the street – and obviously a menace if you own a small appetizing pet. 
But it does of course beg the question of how we define “wildlife.”  Is somebody going to be going to jail for feeding squirrels?  Hummingbirds?  I have been known inadvertently to feed raccoons when the little bastards came and ate all the tomato plants.  And deer in my experience will eat pretty much everything that grows in a garden.  The courts would surely cut me some slack.  The people who put up this sign (again one I’d never seen before) seem like they might be less forgiving.