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Author Archive: "Geoff Nicholson"

The Lost Art of Getting Lost

When I was trying to find a form for my book, I did wonder whether I could use something like "In search of the perfect walk." But I abandoned that idea because in the end I thought there was probably no such thing as a perfect walk, and even if there were it would be completely different for each individual person.

Even so, as I've publicized the book, people have been asking me what my favorite walk is, and whether I could recommend a walk for them to do, and I've done my best to come up with something intelligent, even while admitting that questions like that usually make my mind go completely blank.

Then I got a call from Martin Krasnik, a Danish journalist based in London. He wanted to interview me for his newspaper, but before he did that, could I recommend a good long walk he might do in London. While we talked on the phone I dug out a map, looked at it, and started making random suggestions. Yes, he might start in Oxford Street, say by the 100 Club


What’s In a Title?

Titles are hard. I (and my editor) went through quite a bit of agony before settling on The Lost Art of Walking. For a while it looked like the book might be called Walking Wounded; there was even a time when I considered Walking Fool.

During the writing process I came across two works called The Art of Walking — one an anthology, published in the 1930s edited by Edwin Valentine Mitchell; the other, a dandyish essay by Christopher Morley, published in 1918. There are surely others.

I also knew there was a book called The Lost Art of Walking on Water, which I think is a great title, but even if someone hadn't got there first it still wouldn't have suited my own book. So, I thought The Lost Art of Walking was an original enough title; as original as these things ever are.

And then, quite by chance (OK I admit it, I was googling myself), I found an online reference to The Lost Art ...

The Winehouse Walk

How can you not love Amy Winehouse? But I think I love her for a different reason than most people. I love her for her associations with walking.

In late 2007 the "troubled star" was seen, and photographed, walking the streets of East London, barefoot and stripped down to a bra and jeans. In some reports this was transmuted into a "nude night walk." A "source" told the British tabloid The Sun, "Amy came out and started stumbling around. She popped her head over the fence like she was looking for something. It was freezing and she had no shoes and just a red bra. She was mumbling something incomprehensible. It wasn't the behavior of someone in the right state of mind." Don't you just love a good "source"?

According to the same thing happened again this year: the headline was "Winehouse goes on bizarre night walk." This time she was not (according to sources) naked, but dressed in "a stringy vest, a thin top and denim shorts" and she "walked through the streets erratically. Sometime during the walk, she collected a bottle of ...

Walking and Fording

The following is a walking story I only discovered after my book had gone to press: if not, I'd surely have found some way of shoe-horning it. In fact, it's a story that seems just a little bit too perfect, but I very much want it to be true.

It concerns Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), author of The Good Soldier and Parade's End. His original surname wasn't Ford but Hueffer. He changed it after World War One, because he thought (rightly enough) it sounded too German: his middle name was Hermann, and there had been a period of his life when he styled himself Baron Hueffer von Aschendorf. But why did he pick the surname Ford?

Legend has it that when, as Hueffer, he lived in post-war Paris, he was a great walker and wore out many pairs of shoes. He ...

Walking for Godot

Whenever I start a new writing project, especially nonfiction, I always imagine it's going to be a work of colossal, maybe infinite, length; a thousand-page giant opus that would contain every thought, every feeling, every amazing story and startling fact (in this case) on the subject of walking.

This, of course, fills editors and publishers (and possibly readers) with horror , and in fact at some point it becomes that way for the author, too. In the age of online research, when so much information is so easily available to everybody, what you leave out is as important as what you cram in.

Inevitably some of my favorite bits and pieces about walking finished up on the editing room floor, and of course I can live with that. But since we live in the age of the blog, I can take this opportunity to share one or two omissions.

It was very hard to leave out Samuel Beckett, for instance. In 1938 he was walking ...

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