S J Fowler: Experiences of Necessity

TT Journal, Vol.1, ISSUE 1, 3rd November 2020

Experiences of necessity have taught me that time is what I wish to own. I have, touch wood, just about done so. As the pandemic closed issues, I had the days free to further my walking.

My exploration of London is a sacrosanct subject I do not normally write about. This is because it is for the future, or because it is not a material to make things out of, but a thing I just do. I’m likely better to write about it when I have left London, if I do that upright.
What I do know is that I’d rather walk than write, which is why I have yet to complete longer works of fiction or non-fiction. I am literally out walking instead. I know how to walk from anywhere north of the river to anywhere else north of the river within the bounds of say, zone four, without the aid of a map. Mapless I wander, impressing friends and loved ones with my ability to end up where I had intended to.

But I also do not write about my London because I have often noticed, and recoiled, at those professional artists who turn everything they like into work, without fear of the thing being despoiled, or it being uninteresting to others.

I shan’t write about it here. Simply to say, I walked a great deal during the lockdown of 2020. I keep a pedometer because I find in it a curious companion and across London I would average forty miles a week.

For a time, I carried a walking stick I found in a hedge near Fowler road in Islington. It was head height, pleasingly brutish and thick as a bone. I stopped carrying it after drawing in unwelcome random interactions three times on the same day. A man on Uxbridge road slowed as I passed, on the narrow, harassed streets of Shepherd’s Bush, within throwing distance of the beloved Nutcase nut-shop and shouted at me, at the height of his lungs, are you going to hit me? We often don’t know what we are going to do.

I was listening to music this summer. 1200 songs on my cheap mp3 player. I was holding or not holding a sturdy walking stick. I was wearing parrot patterned shorts. My hair was growing out at the sides, forcing me to wax it backwards. I was carrying two water bottles. I was finding numerous places to urinate, corners, coves, bushes. There were unmentionables too. Things I could see on streets, in windows. Things I could not know. Things I could not hear and be right. I carried a phone I looked at often. I left long audio messages on whatsapp to friends who were living around the world. I listened to their accents and descriptions on lockdown in Mexico City, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Bombay. Brian Eno and Jon Hassell’s Griot (Over “Contagious Magic”). A small fish in a cardboard box in Kilburn. No charity shops.

Small groupings of people as contagious were nearby and I saw very little of what I was thinking. And this was why I was walking, from Kentish Town to Walthamstow and back. From Camden town to Brixton. From Tufnell Park to Barnet. From Golders Green to Alphington. Because of the time it took to get there, on my feet, and the lack of need to be somewhere else. Because of a trained awareness that I was about.

SJ Fowler is a writer, poet and artist who lives in London. www.stevenjfowler.com