“I love London — don’t get me wrong; but it’s a love that’s only the positive pole of a quite profound ambivalence. I think all of us can agree that there are times when the sheer size and weight of the city closes in on us — a vice of bricks, mortar, concrete and steel. For this reason I’ve never liked living in those districts of the city that have no natural features at all. This isn’t too much of a problem, for London — being in a river valley — abounds in hills and rises.
“Perhaps the most London-locked time I ever experienced was when I had a house in Shepherd’s Bush, and then latterly on the fringes of Notting Hill. True, I could get a prospect from the top of Ladbroke Grove — but it was only of more Ladbroke Grove; if I wanted any sense of relief — in both senses — I had to walk to the western edge of Wormwood Scrubs, from which corner of the urban veldt the towers and trees of Campden Hill appeared as a distant oasis.
“For the past decade, however, I’ve been in Stockwell, and while a trip along Wandsworth Road to Clapham Junction offers some vistas, the most prominent natural feature hereabouts is the daddy of ’em all — Old Father Thames. No matter how claustrophobic I may feel, a stroll along the embankments never fails to reposition me in a world that’s as natural as a cormorant scudding across its empurpled wavelets rather than as artificial as a red-faced Cabinet minister tendering his resignation.”
Read the rest of Will Self’s psychogeographic walk along the Thames with his nephew Jack, here.