A mostly crap scrap of the neither-here-nor-there London exurbia is the subject of Nick Papadimitriou’s wonder Scarp. Through decades of walks from his council flat just inside the hellish ring of the north circular, he has fallen deeply for the low bumps of the 17-mile north Middlesex/south Hertfordshire escarpment. Here he is almost on common ground and up against the capital’s modern saints of dystopic psychogeography: the master of the meaningful roundabout JG Ballard (Concrete Island), and the leggy pair of Will Self (Walking to Hollywood) and Iain Sinclair (whose M25 – in London Orbital – is the unspoken tarmac hedge to Papadimitriou’s ambition and stride to the north of his scarp). There are a host of others too – a proper ministry of silly walks – but Papadimitriou is his own man.
His methodology might be bonkers but it is very engaging. Years of study and dreaming in the spare bedroom of his flat have given birth to a series of fantastic journeys – trips, more like – through the ages of the scarp and into and out of its living and its dead, its creatures and plants, its buildings and routeways, its residents and its passers-by. The whole shebang is channelled into what Papadimitriou calls “deep topography”. But the loopy incredibility of all this is redeemed by his indomitable playfulness. That he is relaxed about taking his own character along with him on his walks also helps a lot. He is good fun. [Read More]