Walking in Richard Jefferies’ Footsteps, Monday May 7th 2018

 

The Plaque at RJ’s house in Ewell Road, Tolworth

Outside Richard Jefferies’ House, Ewell Road

Outside Richard Jefferies’ Home – pic by Paul Atkinson

“Jefferies left school at fifteen and at first continued his habits of solitary wanderings about the local countryside. He dressed carelessly and allowed his hair to grow down to his collar. This, with his “bent form and long, rapid stride made him an object of wonder in the town of Swindon. But he was perfectly unconscious of this, or indifferent to it.”

“Later, after becoming ill in the 1867-1868 “My legs are as thin as a grasshopper’s”, he wrote to his aunt. Illness also prompted some reconsideration of his own character: he was going to be “not swell but stylish” in future, since people set so much store by appearance.”

Richard Jefferies takes a walk down Tolworth Broadway

“Open your eyes and see those things which are around us at this hour. If any imagine they shall find thoughts in many books, certainly they will be disappointed. Thought dwells by the stream and sea, by the hill  and in the woodland, in the sunlight and free wind, where the wild dove haunts.” Richard Jefferies in Looker

And we follow him…

 “In the mind all things are written in pictures.” Richard Jefferies in Looker

Richard Jefferies navigates the greenway, across the Tolworth Roundabout

“Though we have been so many thousands of years upon the earth, we do not seem to have done any more as yet than walk along beaten footpaths.” Richard Jefferies

And we follow him…

At Tolworth Station, Under the railway bridge

“It is but a strip of sward, but it is as wild as if in the midst of a forest. A pleasure to everyone- therefore destroy it.” Richard Jefferies in Looker

Crossing over by Tolworth Station. Pic by Paul Atkinson

(As it was in Jefferies day, so it is now.Surveyors and roadmen make sure that the delightful green strips that once surrounded many sign-posts at lonely lane ends are well covered with disfiguring gravel or lime heaps.)

Samuel J Looker writing in 1946 – what would they think now?

Richard Jefferies walks towards the railway bridge…
Reading Ewell Road Footprint at Tolworth Railway Bridge. Pic by Paul Atkinson

EWELL ROAD FOOTPRINT

Sun glaring off the pavement, off the bitumen

smell of dust and petrol- the suburbs in the summer

the smell of the spiky checquered upholstery

Richard Jefferies shares a joke with Tolworth Treasure and the Hogsmill Hum 😉 Pic by Paul Atkinson

on the 281 bus, stuck in the traffic backed-up

along the Ewell Road.

Police Station, Red Lion pub

the last wooden bus shelter in London, removed – no longer the haunt

of crafty school-age smokers on the way home from school.

Past Tolworth Station, the air becomes heavy with the scent of blossom

Bryants men’s outfitters opposite the church,

the church on hot days of May, a rosary month

where we would pray the beads at lunchtime

sometimes hide in the confessional.

Father Kirby with his Dot Cotton fag on

Leading the school mascot and pet goat, Olly.

fainting at the front of the church

holding a flag dressed in Guide uniform

that would be the incense.

My Uncle Bern fixing cars in the Blue Star garage

Walking down the Kingston Road. It’s so green and leafy! Puc by Paul Atkinson

when Tesco was a twinkle in the cash register.

Buying my first single in Woolworths,

watching my Gran with the Greenshield stamps in the co-op,

ice cream floats and squeezy tomatoes in the Wimpy,

On the path… Pic by Paul Atkinson

Verity’s with its never-changing ladies fashions.

Slippery subway steps under the Broadway.

Bells camping shop for my first sleeping bag,

Lorimers, and Superfish- still the same.

…and traffic and roundabouts…

Standing outside Fine Fare on blustery days

on one of the Brutalist fountains,

holding my umbrella, hoping for Mary Poppins action,

spending pocket money in the supermarket on Lucozade and Dairy Milk

Collecting my copy of Jinty from Mouldy’s, opposite Raeburn,

walking home reading and bumping into lamp posts…

and subways and traffic and subways roundabouts

and traffic and green buses and bus shelters…

And (in the Toby Jug) Ziggy played Guitar

 

“A fresh footpath, a fresh flower, a fresh delight.” Richard Jefferies in Looker

The Kingston Road (A240) Bridge over the Hogsmill

Alison showing everyone the vintage photos of the area, including Tolworth Hall Bridge. Pic by Paul Atkinson

Extract from: What Famous Writers Know About Walking – (full feature here)

“Writing is one way of making the world our own, and… walking is another,” wrote Geoff Nicholson in The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, and Literature of Pedestrianism.

Walking is also known to relieve depression and stress, freeing the mind to explore imaginary worlds. A 2012 study found that participants with clinical depression who took a walk in nature experienced improved memory, while an earlier 2008 study found that healthy adults experienced a mental boost after walking for an hour in the park.

Said Charles Dickens: “The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy.”

The White Cycle Bridge over the confluence of the Hogsmill and The Bonesgate Stream and a peek at Tolworth Court Farm Fields

Alison speaking at the edge of Tolworth Court Farm Fields

I read Hogsmill Tiddlers from my Over The Fields poetry map – more about that here.

Tolworth Court Moated Manor

“The meadow glows with buttercups in spring, the hedges are green, the woods lovely; but these are not to be enjoyed in their full significance unless you have traversed the same places when bare, and have watched the slow fulfilment of the flowers.” Richard Jefferies in Looker

Walking across Tolworth Court Farm Moated Manor. Pic by Paul Atkinson

The Barn (extract) by Edmund Blunden

RAIN-SUNKEN roof, grown green and thin
For sparrows’ nests and starlings’ nests;
Dishevelled eaves; unwieldy doors,
Cracked rusty pump, and oaken floors,
And idly-pencilled names and jests
Upon the posts within.

The light pales at the spider’s lust,
The wind tangs through the shattered pane:
An empty hop-poke spreads across
The gaping frame to mend the loss
And keeps out sun as well as rain,

Mildewed with clammy dust.

The smell of apples stored in hay
And homely cattle-cake is there.
Use and disuse have come to terms,
The walls are hollowed out by worms,
But men’s feet keep the mid-floor bare
And free from worse decay.

All merry noise of hens astir
Or sparrows squabbling on the roof
Comes to the barn’s broad open door;
You hear upon the stable floor

Old hungry Dapple strike his hoof,
And the blue fan-tail’s whirr.

The barn is old, and very old,
But not a place of spectral fear.
Cobwebs and dust and speckling sun
Come to old buildings every one.
Long since they made their dwelling here,
And here you may behold

Nothing but simple wane and change;
Your tread will wake no ghost, your voice
Will fall on silence undeterred.
No phantom wailing will be heard,
Only the farm’s blithe cheerful noise;
The barn is old, not strange.

Old Kingston Road. Pic by Paul Atkinson

“The forest is gone; but the spirit of nature stays,

and can be found by those who search for it.”

Richard Jefferies in Looker

 

Please read Alison Fure’s fantastic write up of this walk for the natural history and literature underpinning this exploration into the Tolworth that Richard Jefferies knew. It is compelling- especially as we can still recognise much of it today.

~Tolworth Treasure!~

Thanks to Alison as well for suggesting I read Edmund Blunden’s The Barn.

Thanks to Paul Atkinson for letting me use some of his wonderful pics from the walk here.

A massive thank you to Ben Henderson, who became the embodiment of Mr Jefferies, and for bringing his footsteps to life in such a magical fashion!

Thanks to Gill and everyone at Court Farm Cafe for looking after us, and thanks to everyone who came!

Back to Court Farm Cafe for refreshments, conversation and writing.
Perfect

The walk was also recorded for radio and will be broadcast later in the year…more information on that at a later date.

The majority of the quotes here come from Samuel J Looker’s book The Worthing Cavalcade: Richard Jefferies – A Tribute. Published in 1946.

We will be walking again over the summer- more information on the facebook page here: www.facebook.com/tolworthtreasure

 

Writers’ Centre Kingtson Event: Hoping

I will be doing a short poetry reading this evening, the last one this year, as part of the Writers’ Centre Kingston literary event on ‘Hoping’.

It is FREE and being held at the MINIMA Yacht Club, along Kingston High Street.

Reading alongside me are Sarah Dawson and Gale Burns, prelude to the main speakers: Tony White, Dr Helen Minors and Helen Palmer, who will each be talking on the theme of Hope.

More info here https://www.writerscentrekingston.com/hoping

 

Oh By Jingo

I can’t write about Bowie- there are many glorious essays, articles, outpourings, anecdotes, tributes and stories accumulating like gold dust in his wake… they are easy to find, and have been comforting I think for so many of us who feel bereft. I’ve just read this one by Chris Roberts in the Quietus this is interesting too…The Villa of Ormen…  It’s not too late to feel grateful to the Thin White Duke, even if he has returned to the stars. I have a renewed sense of ‘better do it now and better do it the way I want to do it’…and I am sure I am not the only one. What a legacy…. listen to this…Black Star by Elvis Presley- right to the end Bowie was impeccable with his art and his intentions…

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Walking into 2016

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sunset at Avebury, December 28th 2015

I haven’t been blogging much recently- in fact hardly at all. 2015 turned into a crazy, exciting, busy year, creatively. As a result, I found at the end of the year that I had dropped some important threads, including my blog. I hope to pick up where I left off and carry on knitting this strangely-shaped patchwork blanket of random writings on a much more regular basis. Call it a New Year’s Resolution if you like, maybe it is one – my blog has been a writing rudder in the past, steering me through events, successes, failures, moods, frustrations and obsessions…and I hope it will do that again.

Lots of great stuff happened last year – I feel very grateful and fortunate to have met and worked with some lovely, talented and generous people, and to have achieved some of my ambitions for my writing. I will write more about this but I don’t know if that will happen here and now…it might happen randomly and at will, rather than any attempt to be chronological and consistent and comprehensive…

It was good to go away at Christmas and New Year and take a much-needed breather and see some new places and friendly faces.

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hide and seek at the stones, Avebury

We traveled to stay in a tiny cottage on the edge of a farm in Wiltshire, where I hoovered up Viv Albertine’s memoir in a couple of days; wandered around Avebury re-acquainting myself with its stones and trees, after eating lunch in the Red Lion; found a tiny magical part of Calne; stayed in a very rainy Bath and re-visited the Roman Baths and Sally Lunn’s – amazing lavender cake with rose buttercream filling!

Then we were very lucky to be invited to stay with one of oldest friends and her partner and sons in Cardiff, where we saw the New Year in hearing socialist anthems sang exquisitely by members of Cardiff Reds Choir, who happen to live two doors down from my friend’s house, and who were having a party, which we were then invited to. The next two days were filled with trips to the funfair and Dr Who Experience, home-made curry and apple pie…a great way to see the New Year in – best one I’ve had in years. Thanks for everything, Tania XXX

 

 

Surrey Steampunk Convivial IV -Utterly Bonkers Splendid!

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writing steampunk poems:

Recently I contacted Ben Henderson, who, along with his wife Tixia, organises the annual Surrey Steampunk Convivial, to see if I could offer my poetic services. He was very kind and accommodated my idea of having a steampunk poetry workshop as part of the event, which took place last weekend. I arrived bright and early on the day, to the Royal Oak pub in New Malden, the main venue for this weekend festival, along with the Christchurch Centre, conveniently across the road from the pub. The place was already buzzing with stalls selling various wonderful steampunk accoutrements in the shape of dragon-dwelling hats, goggles and spectacles, be-cogged and geared jewellery and vintage steampunk-style outfits.

There were already several steampunks milling about wearing fantastic garb, drinking tea, and settling in for the excitement to come. A few people dared to try out a writing exercises or two and below is my friend Anna’s rather marvellous poem, which captures the spirit of the Convivial perfectly:

 

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Anna Stickney’s poem:

I wandered lonely as a clockwork snail,

that clanks along o’er cranky planks,

when all at once I saw a crowd,

a host, of extravagant steampunks

beside the cakes, beneath the teapot,

duelling and posing at the Royal Oak.

 

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 loading the specially-built cannon for the ‘fling a familiar’ contest

The two days were a blur of familiar-flinging, snail-racing, tea-duelling, steampunk morris dancing, belly dancing, anamatronic steampunk R&B, snake-snuggling, beer drinking, corset-limbo, radio-play performing, superb steampunk dj soundtracks, shadow-puppet theatre, intellectual superciliousness slamming, storytelling, great live music and bands to dance to and many other bizarre, eccentric and hilarious-but-always so so stylish- steampunk occupations to keep everyone busy.

 

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‘Be Splendid’ is the motto of the steampunk, and indeed it was, and as well as all the fun and frivolity, the Convivial was marked by the friendliness, generosity, good humour and welcoming attitude of everyone there, especially to the newbies amongst us, of which I was one. But- no more a newbie- I am hoping to be back for more creative steampunk mayhem this August, when, due to its’ popularity, there will be a second Surrey Steampunk Convivial of 2015, where I hear rumours of marquees in the beer garden…and possibly flamingo croquet…?

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So please, grab your top hat, goggles, corset and kraken….and join in the fun!

More pics from the event below.

For more information head over to the Surrey Steampunk Convivial website here.

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Diggory mole makes it into the hat

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the purple platypus winner

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‘around the world in 8o days’ radio play

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serious dunking – click here for tea duelling rules

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tense atmosphere at the tea-duelling

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tea-duelling champion

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preparing to snail race

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umbrella duelling

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Herr Doktor’s Raygun

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me, trying to hold on to the super-speedy corn snake

 

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Ichabod Steam’s animatronic  Steampunk band

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 sword-wielding belly dancers!

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the winner of corset limbo shows how it’s done

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 Darren Gooding’s amazing storytelling

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shadow puppet theatre!

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audience participation invloved languishing and carrying a bagful of sky

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 intellectual superciliousness slam…nincompoops!

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 me reading some steampunk’d poems

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the marvellous Moth with Ben and Tixia

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Choro Bandido

 

Club to Catwalk at the V&A

VandA1editA night out at the V&A to raise a glass for my best mate’s birthday, take a trip down memory lane at the Club to Catwalk show, and do a spot of dressing up in vintage 80s fashion. Perfect!

My best mate Mel and sister Tania both turned up in their John Crancher skirts. I had intended to wear my black John Crancher shirt, decorated with the same distinctive print of generously-endowed dancing devils in gold, but after two forays into the loft couldn’t find it. Instead, I opted for my skull shirt from Artificial Eye, an infamous label in the long-gone but still missed Kensington Market.

L’Anarchie, John Crancher’s shop was also in Kenny Market, and although none of us could remember much about the shop itself, apart from the fabulous clothing, we did remember where it was (ground floor on the left hand side).

The show had some interesting exhibits, especially the section upstairs with its Body Map, Rifat Ozbek, Pam Hogg, Vivienne Westwood designs and outfits worn by Adam Ant and Toyah. As an old Goth I found the ‘Gothic’ section a bit staid and sanitised, and the exhibition as a whole felt too static, despite the excellent video montages and soundtrack. It didn’t achieve the edginess, experimentation and exuberance of that time,which the recent ICA Subcultures show had in buckets but it does have the actual clothes!

Unlike the ICA show the V&A were strictly enforcing their policy of no photography, or even sketching of the show. Understandable – you will have to go to see what I am talking about, and as I didn’t take a notebook I can’t rattle off a comprehensive list of designers.

The sign of a good show is that your expectations are confounded in some way, and what the three of us had forgotten, apart from the stereotype of legwarmers and day glo etc (yawn) is that there were a lot of BAD CLOTHES in the 80s- terrible jumpers, ruched shiny cocktail dresses, overblown detailing and questionable tailoring. We had a good laugh about the reality…it’s amazing what the memory filters out.

If you went to Kensington Market, then crossed the road to window shop in Hyper Hyper, or hung out in the Great Gear Market, this show will interest and delight you. Also- I’d never experienced the V&A on a Friday evening and would recommend it- the atmosphere in the museum was great, and the addition of a bar and dj definitely helped!