It was a gentle devouring to begin with. The abandoned bicycle was settled into the bed of leaves and twigs, and then caressed and entwined by grass, nettles, cobwebs, and questing finger-like branches.
One day in 1745 in the hamlet of Gubblecote, near Tring in Hertfordshire, an elderly woman named Ruth Osborne went to beg for some buttermilk at a local farm. She lived in poverty with her husband, John, neither of them able to get much work or support from their neighbours. The Osbornes were shunned for the double reason that they were thought to be witches and Jacobites (1745 also happened to be the year of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rising).
My new book, the second of the London Trails series, is out now. City of Song: A London Sixties Music Trail takes the reader on a walk from Chelsea to Soho, stopping off at twenty-four locations that hosted significant musical performances, encounters and happenings in that decade.
There are some who say that like ancient Rome, Sheffield was built on seven hills. Whatever the truth of that claim, none of the seven hills of Rome has anything like the Park Hill estate surmounting its brow.
To be thrice-memorialised on a single stretch of road might seem extravagant for a monarch, let alone an obscure, hapless highwayman. But though one of these remembrances of Spence Broughton is a kitsch and somewhat macabre reproduction of the after-life of his corpse, the other two would register briefly or not at all on the consciousness of the passer-by.
Kentish field flecked with flint.
Farmer picked the flint from field,
Planting piles along the fringe.
Brutalist architecture mostly leaves me cold or repulsed but I’ve always had a liking, verging on an affection, for the Barbican Estate, perhaps because I worked there for six years and got to know its vastness, its labyrinths, and its hidden byways. I’ve always thought that if there was one structure in London that would survive nuclear war or natural catastrophe it would be the Barbican.
A small wooden church on Cardiff Bay testifies to the most significant influx of Norwegians to Britain since the Viking invasions a thousand years earlier. These nineteenth-century Norwegians were more peaceable than their Viking ancestors, interested in trade rather than pillage. And unlike those earlier visitors they worshipped Christ, not Odin.