Drifting and striding 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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


You know me and I know you.  And we all like trails and we all like desire. Which is why we like desire trails. OK, sometimes they’re called desire lines, but that’s far less sexy, and let’s face it, these things are trails not lines.  And sometimes they get called desire paths.

There was an article in the Guardian last year titled ‘Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners.'  To which one can only say “Illicit? Oh, please.”

The article contained a link to an academic paper from the University of Wollongong (you may make up your own joke here) which contained this fabulous bit of prose: ‘The theme of grounded practice returns in a very different way in Nathalie Casemajor Loustau and Heather Davis’ discussion of their project – “Ouvert/Open: Common Utopias”. Expanding out from a particular and local phenomenon of urban life in Montreal where desire lines record collective disobedience.'  To which one might say, ‘Oh, double please.’  

Anyway, above and below are some desire trails/paths/lines I walked recently.  Me, I’m just SO illicit and disobedient.  And OK, I'm not sure that the one below really counts, but it's a top quality trail in any case:

Monday, May 13, 2019


I’ve been reading David Toop’s memoir Flutter Echo: Living Within Sound.

It turns out he’s a bit of a walker.  In fact that title comes from walking.  He writes, “My first memory of a listening experience comes from a walk, a regular journey during my early childhood.” He used to visit his grandparents, “we would take the bus from Waltham Cross to Enfield, then walk from the centre of the town to their house in Bush Hill Park …” 

"Shortly before the railway bridge that took us over the tracks into my grandparents’ road the path was bordered on both sides by a concrete wall.  The narrowness of this path meant that the walls reflected echoes from our footsteps very rapidly, an effect described as flutter echo by acousticians. Like the fluttering of a moth’s wings, sound bounces back and forth between the two parallel walls to create a ‘zing’.”

Later he lived with the artist Marie Yates, and together they did “Field Workings,” described by Toop as “walking and working from within the self and under the sky, deeply private even though conducted on open land and documented.” She made environmental sculptures, he made recordings, one of which consisted of “hanging my microphone on a wire fence, then walking away as I played sounds that were snatched from me by the wind …”. This an image from one of Yates's pieces.

Also, from his days as a (for want of two better words) music journalist there’s an article on the Artangel website about walking and art and sound related to Francis Alÿs, Seven Walks (2005), though he references quite a few other walking artists too.
He quotes Alÿs as saying, “I think it’s a natural state for somebody who’s interested in cities or architecture in general to walk. Walking offers a very convenient space for things to happen, and it allows a certain awareness in between an ongoing chain of thoughts and a series of incidental informations around, glimpses of scenes, sounds, smells, etc…” 
         This is an annotated map for one of Alÿs’s walks, titled, Guards.

Toop says, in his own write, “Urban space is divided up according to ideas of visual drama, social connectivity, and the pragmatics of movement, yet sound is taken for granted, forgotten, or ignored despite its vital role as an element in urban design. Sound is not reducible to a text, so not susceptible to ‘reading’.” 
I like that.

Monday, May 6, 2019







Saturday, May 4, 2019


Well, my billeting in Chelsea is about to come to an end.

It’s been a good time, and of course I make friends wherever I go, but I never got over the feeling that I wasn’t quite Chelsea material.  Few are.

When I arrived there was a place nearby in Kings Road called the Diva Café – it has now become Bye Bye London. 

I haven’t been in there since the change of name. As you may guess from the sign, it’s an Arabic restaurant, specifically Kuwaiti, and I don’t quite understand what the man on the sign looks so cross about. 

Meanwhile a little way up Kings Road there’s shop called London Bonjour, selling 'eyewear' (kids, that's what we used to call glasses!) and I’ve never been in there either but the name does seem a little more welcoming.

And here are one or two other sights I've seen while wandering around Chelsea.

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Sometimes an urban drift really doesn’t have to be all that dramatic.  Yesterday’s went from Green Park to Oxford Circus, which neither I nor anybody else would think of as prime drifting territory, but it had its moments.

First stop, and in fact most of the reason for the trip, was the William Eggleston exhibition at the David Zwirner gallery.

It was great: a smallish show of big pictures, and it was truly wonderful.  In general I’m all for exhibitions that take place in unconventional and alternative spaces, but sometimes you go into a white, bright, high-ceilinged space and you understand why some galleries choose to be that way.

Picture from David Zwirner Gallery.

Next, up behind Oxford Circus, it was time to new, and perhaps last, look at the Welbeck Street multistory car park which used to look like this:

 but now looks like this:

and will soon look like nothing at all, as it’s about to be demolished.
Oxford Circus, of course, was recently one of the scenes of the Extinction Rebellion protest, which I walked past, or through, a couple of times, and it all seemed fairly good humoured, and there was no problem getting in and out of the tube station, but we know not everybody saw it that way.   

Although there were many complaints about the real or imagined middle-classness of the protesters, I didn’t see anybody objecting on the grounds that it was “too white.“ Maybe middle-class is synonymous with whiteness. On the other hand there were these two who were slapping on the white face:

 and there was this guy, who carried his whiteness with a twist: