On location: my students’ dérives

The academic requirement for the psychogeography module that I teach at Brunel University London is in two parts. First, there’s a fairly straightforward essay question that gives students an opportunity to display their erudition when it comes to the antics of the surrealists and situationists, or the high-flown ramblings of the English Romantics. Then there’s a special project. The idea for this is that the students undertake their own version of a dérive – the aimless drift through the city that is the raison d’être of seriously flippant flâneurs – and document it in any way they please.

On location: parakeets in London

One of the more bizarre changes I’ve witnessed over the past 20 years or so has been the vast increase in the numbers of Indian rose-ringed parakeets on my manor. Commonly referred to as the ring-neck parakeet, Psittacula krameri manillensis is a bird of such raucousness that were I to get my hands on one, I would cheerfully wring its neck.

Real meals: really disgusting meals

I do feel some commitment to public service and as one in four people reading this will be obese, while the other three are merely “overweight”, now seems the right time to do some. Service, I mean – because we’ve all been serving ourselves too much over what’s called the “festive” season and January is the time to take stock . . . not make it. In furtherance of your resolutions, I’m dedicating this week’s column to really disgusting meals. Yes, you heard me right: meals of a true revoltingness such as to turn the stomach of the most hardened gourmand – so sit back and . . . retch.

On barbed wire

I well remember the 2011 riots. On my manor, in south London, things really kicked off at Clapham Junction where, summoned by BlackBerry direct messaging, the crowds assembled and laid waste to the Arding & Hobbs department store, then set fire to Party Superstores, which went up in a whoosh of synthetic-onesie-fuelled flames. Sitting in our house in Stockwell, we watched the evening news and saw the computer graphics depicting the rioting creeping like sepsis along the arterial routes. The crazed mob had reached Clapham High Street and was headed our way.

Will Self on David Bowie: ‘We won’t see his like again’

Like a million other baby-boomers I’ve been revisiting the soundtrack of my early adolescence this week – I confess, although no great rock fan nowadays, I cried when I heard David Bowie had died. Cried for all sorts of reasons – not least, because unlike so many famous people in this era when medical science is our religion and disease is diabolic, Bowie had refused to go public with news of his cancer, or offer us ringside seats while he “battled” with it. (A ridiculous metaphoric construction – and no doubt one Bowie himself, with his fine lyrical sensibility, would’ve eschewed.) One minute he was, if not present, at least immanent in the way of all great and influential artists ? the next he was gone.

On location: on my imaginary island

The method of loci was a mnemonic system developed in the classical period as an aid to displays of rhetoric. By imagining a series of discrete loci and conceptualising the facts needed to be recalled as a number of objects placed within these locations, the orator could gain access to his memories by visualising himself walking from place to place and retrieving the tropes, figures and other information that he needs.

Repurposed as the “memory palace”, the method of loci makes an appearance in Thomas Harris’s paean to successful psychopathy, the 1999 thriller Hannibal: