I wrote an essay for Mount London: Ascents in the Vertical City

mountlondon_cover_smallThis book, a collection of essays and stories, is an account of the ascent of ‘Mount London’: “An invisible mountain is rising above the streets of the capital – and at over 1,800 metres, it is Britain’s highest peak.”

There are ascents of natural hills, such as Primrose Hill, as well as man-made ones, such as the Shard and Battersea Power Station. I’m pleased to announce there is also an ascent of Lavender Hill, a modest natural peak near Clapham Junction in Battersea, written by none other than yours truly. The aim of this collection is to explore London’s history and geography by mapping this urban landscape, and what it’s like to move through its mountainous terrain.

I haven’t read all of this book yet, but from what I have read I’ve been impressed. It’s a really interesting concept and with accounts ranging from the personal to the experimental, it offers incite into the diversity of perspectives on the city.

 

Available from Waterstones, Amazon Kindle and other good book retailers.

Published by Penned in the Margins

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The London Perambulator – Nick Papadimitriou

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I was recently introduced to the work of Nick Papadimitriou by fellow MA student, Rachel Andrews (Thanks Rachel!) and it has blown my tiny mind. After decades spent researching and documenting London’s topography for, among others, Will Self, he’s put together a book, Scarp (great review by radio producer Tim Dee). It tells the story of the landscape surrounding his home in Child’s Hill, north London, through a mixture of memoir, nature writing and social history offering an account of a life lived on the edge lands, geographically and existentially.

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After battling a drug addiction, he took to walking and over the last thirty years he’s kept records of everything from the progress of building works to roads, animal behaviour, sewage systems, dead things and even the weather. He calls his work ‘Deep Topology’. The London Perambulator is a documentary about him, he’s a little eccentric, but absolutely fascinating. It features some words from an impressive list of friends too, including psychogeographers Will Self and Ian Sinclair as well as, bizarrely, Russell Brand (he just gets everywhere).

If you’re interested in London, non-fiction or just interesting characters, it’s well worth a watch. I can’t wait to read his book.

Books for travel writers #1: Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

I thought I’d share a few of the books which I’ve been reading recently. All related to travel and nature writing, but all approach the field from very different angles.

Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris

The last ever book from Morris, now in her eighties, is a wonderful exploration of how fluid and changeable, yet in some ways totally rigid, a place can be. Having been posted there originally as a soldier in the Second World War – before becoming a woman – and as a writer and tourist since, the book investigates what it is about the city that’s so haunting.

Having been to Trieste myself (for about three hours) I was fascinated by the title, it summed up exactly how I felt: it is nowhere. On the first page we are told that in a poll ’70 percent of Italians did not know that it was in Italy.’ Yet for no fathomable reason my mind often wanders back there too.

The book offers a fascinatingly in-depth look into local history, as well as comprehensive references to literature however, for me, it was a little too factual. I felt that Morris herself was the truly interesting character and It was the first and last chapters, where her feelings and personal connection with the place were more apparent, that were the most engaging.

Why:

One of the really interesting things that Morris does is to play around with large chunks of information, creating fictitious imaginings of events based on the facts. It sat really nicely within the narrative, especially with such a lot of history, breathing life into the ghosts of the past.

Reading this book really confirmed how important I find context – I don’t just want to know about a place, I want to know why that writer is telling me about it too, what it means to them. This has helped me feel more self-assured about my own work.

Who:

Writers interested in sociological or cultural history (the city’s population have found themselves moved between several nationalities) or history. There’s a lot about the Hapsburgs, WW1 and 2, Yugoslavia and Austria.

Morris has a subtle humour to her work and descriptions such as the city having a ‘sweet melancholy’ are so simple but, like the city, haunting. Perfect for anyone interested in developing a more paired-back way of evoking a sense of place or a more conversational, accessible writing style.