The other evening I went to meet Nick Papadimitriou for coffee in Hampstead – at our regular rendezvous – The Coffee Cup. He slides a hot-off-the-press copy of his book ‘Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Barnet, Finchley and Hendon’ across the table to me. I ask him to sign it. “Bollocks to Psychogeography”, he writes.
Any thoughts that this is a standard local history text are quickly banished on page 1. “In order to ‘frame’ the zone within which the murders described in this book occurred I undertook a series of long walks crossing the borough in order to examine the site of each killing”. At the risk of deeply offending the original Deep Topographer, this fits many people’s definition of psychogeography.
“…. a quiet yet brooding power lurks in our hilly region of serried rooftops and arterial roads. A walk down the Hendon Way from my home in Child’s Hill, in April 2007, revealed traces of the old Hendon Urban District Council sewage farm still visible in concrete culverts and the raised lines of a buried aqueduct at Brent Cross.” Pure Deep Topography.
Nick takes what could have just been the lurid recounting of some murders culled from the local archives and produces a detailed study of the topography, psyche, neurosis, and mythology of the region of his birth. It has all the qualities of the books that both he and I love, the commissioned walking guides to the fringelands of London that went far beyond the brief of describing the locations of footpaths and towpaths to put forward a heightened sensibility, a new way of connecting with the suburban landscape.
My film about Nick is finally taking shape. I did another cut on Thursday where a sequence from our walk from Finchley to Arnos Grove shot last February was added, “suburbs are just the dream of a mushroom god”, Nick lays forth whilst looking at a neat row of Edwardian villas. The challenge still is to feel that Nick’s world is done justice, that the film takes us some way to seeing what he sees and experiences. I’ve spent this evening spooling through a couple of hours of archive footage to pull out about 90 seconds of choice cuts. The contributions from Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Russell Brand seem more priceless with each viewing. The experience feels as epic as our longest walks together.
Once this is done I look forward to going back out walking with Nick – without a camera.
Found this photo of James Lane Leyton on the wall of The Hitchcock pub last night (it’s a photo of the photo, I didn’t nick it). In a dark recess beside the dart throw there is a large C19th map showing the School Board schools in the area. The things you find in pubs if you look beyond your pint.
I originally tried, and failed, sending this from my phone last night as I developed a habit of doing when I started this blog all of five years ago hoofing it to and from the Angel – a place still pregnant with memory for me as I was reminded gliding through at 3am on a 214 from Kentish Town heading east the other night. That bus tours the ghost locations of pleasure gardens marked by brothels boozers and tower blocks – a film I never made (super8 images of Cally Clocktower from Barnard Park, Bagnigge Wells by lamp-light, the Eagle marooned in Hoxditch), the moment now passed.
The latest edit of the Nick film was the reason for this nocturnal tour, again on my mind last night as I flicked to p.51 of Iain Sinclair’s imperious Hackney That Rose-Red Empire, and there an oblique reference to the subject of my film, “the mysterious liminal figure at the edge of the city” (that’s Iain talking in the doc not in the book – get yourself a copy of that). It all loops back and around. The meeting at St. Luke’s with Nick, I was also there that night before I’d met either man.
The loop again, a trek over to Clapton last weekend to drop some Super8 off for telecine. I’ve brought the whole tribe so I take them on a stroll through the “Rose-Red Empire” round my old stomping grounds, the estate squat where I lived and ran the local Labour Party at a time of semi-illegal Labour Council led evictions, and down to Victoria Park where the blank generation have set up a gastro colonial outpost on the old lake where war-time abortions were disposed of. We can’t leave the fugue, even the little guys with their short legs, so we perambulate (in both senses as we have a pram-bulator too) through Old Ford where I re-tell mis-learnt stories of Romans and Danes, across to the Wick and into the manor of Ruckholt where the legs give out and we board a W15.