Warned in advance of travel chaos during the 2012 Olympics due to overcrowding on the transport system, local people have been doing everything they can to avoid central London. Some of my acquaintances were actually told by their employers that during the games they should find accommodation within walking distance of their jobs to ensure they clocked in on time – since it wasn’t going to be feasible for them to commute across London. Many decided they didn’t want to put up with such bullshit and took holidays to get out of London during the Olympics. As a result despite detours, Zil lanes and closed roads, it is actually much easier to get around the city than is usually the case.
This morning I decided to check out parts of central London that I hadn’t been to since the Olympics started to see if they were as empty as the places I more usually hang out in. I got on a bicycle and rode through the West End and Mayfair to Hyde Park, then through the greenery to Kensington Gore. Despite the water being used for some Olympic events even the edge of the Serpentine wasn’t very busy – although I guess it was relatively early when I rode past.
I was going to have a wander around Kensington on foot but the cycle stands where I’d usually lock my bike had tape around them and a police message saying they were out of use during the Olympics. The racks in question are in front of a building being used by the USA Olympic team but I don’t see why that means you shouldn’t chain up a bike there. There were a couple of cycles in the stands that looked like they’d been there since before the Olympics started as they were covered with police tape – and they undermined the messages saying that any push bikes left in the racks during the games would be taken away.
Kensington Gore had been transformed into a sinister quarter with the addition of temporary barriers down both sides of the road by the Albert Hall and the closure of some pedestrian crossings. Hit by waves of nausea as I approached the USA Olympic team base, I decided to head back through Hyde Park. By this time parts of that great green lung were getting busy as coaches drew up along Park Lane and off-loaded 50 or more Olympic tourists at a time. However, once I was heading along Hill Street in Mayfair I found that road extremely quiet.
I decided to go north along Davies Street so that I could check out Oxford Street. I found Davies Street blocked off part way up, so I had to detour through Hanover Square, half of which was also closed to all traffic. Oxford Street looked a lot quieter than you’d expect and was easy to cycle along – it had become an empty quarter. The traffic, mostly buses and coaches, got rather jammed up between Tottenham Court Road and Southampton Row – but eased out further down on Clerkenwell Road. The streets everywhere were much emptier than I’d expected – and a deserted metropolis in the middle of a summer weekday is a real treat!
It seems to me the point of the Olympics is to block off streets and empty large parts of London while jamming huge crowds into relatively small areas. The effect is to defamiliarise a city many locals know very well. The Olympics are therefore in practice a classically psychogeographical exercise and one that enables us to draw up new emotional maps of the London! So let’s forget the sport and dream up a new world!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!
Comment by Claude Lefort on 2012-08-02 00:22:20 +0000
But surely psychogeography is about walking! If you’re cycling I don’t see how it can be psychogeography!
Comment by Psychedelic Sid on 2012-08-02 00:29:58 +0000
Maybe psychogeography is a sport!
Comment by E on 2012-08-02 06:49:37 +0000
You been reading too many bourgeois dickheads like Will Self if you think psychogeography is just about walking. Everyone knows its all about the triathlon.
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-08-02 16:32:29 +0000
I agree completely that psychogeography ain’t about walking – in fact the activity out in the city (and not always on the streets) could be on foot, bicycle, by public transport or even in a car etc. (and might well be a combination of some or all of these plus periods of rest) is the drift. Psychogeography is the act of drawing together the material from the drift but none of the English language literary plonkers who use the term seem to know this… They don’t understand dialectics either, let alone triolectics!
Comment by Ivan Pope on 2012-08-02 16:54:25 +0000
Claude – never heard of cyclogeogrpahy?
Comment by Hugh Mulhall on 2012-08-02 17:56:44 +0000
Hugh Mulhall you can only get McDonalds chips for miles around – might be an improvement – haven’t done a survey yet
Comment by Guy Griffiths on 2012-08-02 18:09:55 +0000
All Londoners on the tube have been replaced by bemused Europeans clutching tube maps, some of them with humorous hats. I quite like it – they break all of the rules, like talking and making eye contact. My train this morning was loaded with kids who spent the trip asking if they were in London yet and decorating each other with Team GB stickers so they’d “look good in the crowd”.But they stand still on the left hand side of the escalator, which should be a hanging offence! The tube is actually tolerable now. There’s actually less people on it, not more, which is kinda weird. Seriously, it’s really weird but kinda cool how empty parts of London are.
Comment by Paul Case on 2012-08-02 18:35:48 +0000
Empty London is strange. Vision of the Olympocalypse… had a guy i hitched a ride with here tell me that the Illuminati had put nuclear devices in the stadium and I had to tell my friends and family to all leave the UK. His words: “If I’m wrong, what’ve they lost?” Very weird.
Comment by Noah Antdragon on 2012-08-02 19:18:57 +0000
Situationist Olympics… alright! we already have 3 sided football… so what other events could be included?
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-08-02 19:56:44 +0000
Pin the tail on David Cameron and Boris Johnson? And Jeremy Hunt! What a mucking punt Jeremy Hunt is – claiming Olympics is good for west end business when everyone know takings and visitors are down there… Anywone who has been in central London during the Olympics can see what a rotten liar Hunt is!
Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2012-08-02 20:26:43 +0000
What a bunch of waddling stiff-arses those self-appointed Brit lit psycho-geographers like Will Self are. The champion of these quaint old buffers – whatever their calendar age, they reek of the antiquarian closet – is nature writer Robert McFarlane.
In a Guardian piece of some months ago he wrote about Iain Sinclair’s ‘weaponised walking’ as ‘flaneurism radically repurposed’, and thus reveals that he knows very little about where flaneurism, and by extension psycho-geography, came from. From its very beginnings in the 19c the dandified urban walkabouts of the flaneur were more than the ‘pomaded preenings’ which MacFarlane reduces them to. Like the poet Gerard de Nerval with his pet losbster on a lead, the flaneur’s idea was to literally stop traffic – to resist the new rhythms imposed on city life by Baron Haussmann’s grandiose but brutal re-design of Paris at the expense of the the intricacies and unruly nature of its medieval street patterns.
The flaneur, arty poseur or not, stood out against modern re-development, the grid and radial system favoured by capitalist rationality. The flaneur wanted to move to a different urban beat and to resist being dragooned along the shiny new lines of what Victor Hugo said now looked like a ‘checker-board’ rather than a city.
In GHOST MILK Sinclair’s desire to reclaim the street, and space from the Olympics, is very much in the spirit of the 19c flaneur, a spirit also to be found in the ‘mad’ urban drift of the Surrealists and the psycho-geographic ‘drunken boating’ of the Situationists.
You can do all this by walking and it’s certainly my preferred mode but it doesn’t have to take this form or what becomes in the hands – or rather the corny and swollen prose of a Will Self – a ramble down literary lane. It’s perfectly possible to use a bus. Commandeering a 23 and driving it down Whitehall in order to pay an impromptu visit to 10 Downing St would definitely be psycho-geography.
I am sorry to say that these next few weeks I will not be able to follow Mr Trippy. Ostensibly holidaying near Beziers in Cathar country, I am in fact going down there to mount an action in order to prevent an extreme right-wing order of warrior monks called the Sons of the Knights of the Sacred Lily from digging up the graves of Cathars who managed to avoid torture and death at the hands of the Alibigensian Crusade, and then barbecuing the remains. The Sons have already carried out several of these post-dated auto-da-fes and must be stopped from further abuse of the bones of the Good Men – some of whom were women – of seven centuries ago… I shall then be heading for Italy, to Pistoia to find out more about a medieval plague remedy which inolved being encased in a recently slaughtered ox.
Comment by k on 2012-08-02 22:48:56 +0000
hi ivan – havent seen u since the dot walk at russel square during the “hot summer of psychogeography” 10 years ago now!
Comment by Beneath The Paving Stones on 2012-08-02 23:29:24 +0000
Treat Russell Square like the beach and then you’ll get the true measure of psychogeography….
Comment by Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper & Snorky on 2012-08-03 01:21:20 +0000
Team USA are now also known as The Sour Grape Bunch! They’re swimming against the current too!
Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-08-03 06:14:22 +0000
Comment by o on 2012-08-03 09:11:24 +0000
no useless nostalgia reactionary yearning for the days of rent boys of russel square – we shall blaze a trail to the future!
Comment by Mike Turnbull on 2012-08-03 14:47:34 +0000
You lot seem to have forgotten about the original psychogeographer Walking Stewart. John “Walking” Stewart (19 February 1747 – 20 February 1822) was an English traveller and philosopher.
Known as ‘Walking’ Stewart to his contemporaries for having travelled on foot from Madras, India (where he had worked as a clerk for the East India Company) back to Europe between 1765 and the mid 1790s. Stewart is thought to have walked alone across Persia, Abyssinia, Arabia and Africa before wandering into every European country as far east as Russia.
During his journeys, he developed a unique brand of materialist philosophy which combines elements of Spinozistic pantheism with yogic notions of a single indissoluble consciousness. Stewart began to promote his ideas publicly in 1790 with the publication of his treatise Travels over the most interesting parts of the Globe (London, 1790).
Over the next three decades Stewart wrote prolifically, publishing nearly thirty philosophical works, including The Opus Maximum (London, 1803) and the long verse-poem The Revelation of Nature (New York, 1795).
Stewart’s works exhibit a naive arrogance, frequently asserting that their author is the “only child of nature” to have ever lived. In 1796, George Washington’s portrait-painter, James Sharples, executed a pastel likeness of Stewart for a series of portraits which included such sitters as William Godwin, Joseph Priestley, and Humphry Davy, suggesting the intellectual esteem in which Stewart was once held.
In 1792, while residing in Paris in the weeks following the September Massacres, he made the acquaintance of the young Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who later concurred with De Quincey that Stewart was the most eloquent man on the subject of Nature that either had ever met. Recent scholarship has suggested that Stewart’s persona and philosophical writings had a major influence on Wordsworth’s poetry.
After retiring from travelling, Stewart eventually settled in London where he held philosophical soirées and earned a reputation as one of the city’s celebrated eccentrics. He was often seen in public ways wearing a threadbare Armenian military uniform—a souvenir, one assumes, from his many adventures.
After Walking Stewart’s travels came to an end around the turn of the nineteenth century, he became close friends with the English essayist and fellow-Londoner Thomas De Quincey, with the radical pamphleteer Thomas Paine, and with the Platonist Thomas Taylor (1758-1835).
On 20 February 1822, the morning after his seventy-fifth birthday, ‘Walking’ Stewart’s body was found in a rented room in Northumberland Place, near present-day Trafalgar Square, London. An empty bottle of laudanum lay beside him.
Comment by Felice Taylor on 2012-08-03 15:47:04 +0000
Until these Brit lit psychogeographers learn to walk it and talk it no one will take them seriously… they ain’t close to the talk yet let alone the walk!
Comment by Little Willie on 2012-08-03 21:22:21 +0000
Walking? Nah, real psychogeography is having sex in public places!
Comment by Gene Morton on 2012-08-03 22:08:34 +0000
And some of those Olympic athletes are pretty fit so maybe we should get them into psychogeographical sex.
Comment by j on 2012-08-04 08:28:35 +0000
forget your flapping flaneur wankerers with their magic wanks
wanking stewart is always the original and the best
but the original psychogeographers were the hunter gatherers
Comment by ghfb on 2012-08-04 11:47:04 +0000
Psychogeography begins with the Lettrists and as such is perhaps best understood as a bridge between hypergraphy metagraphy and biography
Comment by ghfb on 2012-08-04 11:48:04 +0000
Situgraphy not biography!
Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-08-05 14:51:11 +0000
There’s only one thing worse than biography and that’s autobiography AKA memoir….