When John Rogers packed away his rucksack to start a family in London he didn’t stop travelling. But instead of canoeing up the Rejang River to find retired headhunters in Sarawak, he caught the ferry to Woolwich in search of the edge of the city at Crayford Marshes.
This Other London recounts that journey and many others – all on foot and epic in their own cartilage-crunching way. Clutching a samosa and a handful of out-of-date A-Zs, he heads out into the wilderness of isolated luxury apartment blocks in Brentford, the ruins of Lesnes Abbey near Thamesmead, and the ancient Lammas Lands in Leyton.
Denounced by his young sons as a ‘hippy wizard’, Rogers delves into some of the overlooked stories rumbling beneath the tarmac of the city suburbs. Holy wells in Lewisham; wassailing in Clapton; a heretical fresco in West Ham. He encounters the Highwaymen of Hounslow Heath, Viet Cong vets still fighting Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket in Beckton, Dutch sailors marooned at Erith pier; and cyclists – without Bradley Wiggins’ sideburns – at Herne Hill Velodrome. He heads out to Uxendon Hill to witness the end of the world, Horsenden Hill to learn its legend, and Tulse Hill to the observatory of the Victorian Brian Cox.
This Other London will take you into the hinterland of the city. The London that is lived in; the London where workaday dormitory suburbs sit atop a rich history that could rival Westminster and Tower Bridge. In an age when no corner of the globe has been left untrampled-upon by hordes of tourists, it is time to discover the wonders on our doorstep.
This Other London is your gateway through the underexplored nooks of London. As Pathfinder wrote in 1911, ‘Adventure begins at home’.
TO VANCOUVER ISLAND
From the day I read in the Field Sir Richard Musgrave's article, "A seventy-pound salmon with rod and line," and located the river as the Campbell River, I determined that should the opportunity arise, I, too, would try my luck in those waters.
Subsequent articles in the Field, which appeared from time to time, only increased my desire, and the summer of 1908 found me in a position to start on the trip to which I had so long looked forward.
Living in Egypt, the land of eternal glare and sunshine, I counted the days till I could rest my eyes on the ever-green forests of Vancouver Island.
My intention was to arrive in Vancouver about the end of July, spend the month of August, when the great tyee salmon run, at the Campbell River, and pass September, when the shooting season begins, in hunting for wapiti in the primeval forests which clothe the north of Vancouver Island.
I also hoped, should time permit, to have a try for a Rocky Mountain goat, and possibly a bear on the Mainland.
I sailed from Southampton on July 10, on the Deutschland, the magnificent steamer of the Hamburg-American Line, and never did I travel in greater luxury.
The voyage across the Atlantic is always dull and monotonous; it was therefore with great relief that, having passed Sandy Hook in the early morning, I found myself approaching New York on the 16th.
Here I was to have a new experience.
I am, I hope, a modest man, and never dreamt that I was worthy of becoming the prey of the American interviewer.
The fact of being a Pasha in Egypt, a rank which I attained when serving in the Egyptian Army, was my undoing.
A kind German friend who had used his good offices on my behalf with the Board of the Hamburg-American Line, gave the show away, for I found myself on the printed passenger list figuring as Sir John Rogers Pasha.
To the American interviewer, a Pasha was, I presume, a novelty, and the opportunity of torturing one not to be forgone, for as soon as we came alongside the quay at Hoboken, a pleasant and well-spoken individual came up to me and, raising his hat, remarked, "The Pasha I believe. Welcome to America." I then realized what I was in for.
Had I been a witness in the box, I could not have undergone a more merciless cross-examination. It was almost on a par with a declaration I had to make for the Immigration Authorities—giving my age, where I was born, who were my father and mother, when did they die, what was the colour of my hair and eyes, and lastly, had I ever been in prison, and if so, for what offence?
I really think New York might spare its visitors this ordeal.
Wriggle as I could, my interviewer was determined to obtain copy, and though I insisted that the title of "Pasha" had been entered on the passenger list by mistake, and that it was one not intended for exportation, he was not to be satisfied.
Giving as few details as possible as to how I had obtained my exalted title, I eventually shook off my persecutor. No sooner had I moved a few steps away, than if possible a more plausible person expressed the great pleasure it gave him to welcome me to New York, and endeavoured to impress on me that it was a duty I owed to myself and to the American nation, not only to explain what a "Pasha" was and how I became a Pasha, but also to allow my photograph to be taken, which he guaranteed would appear the following day in his paper—naturally the leading journal of New York.
To be continue in this ebook
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Authorship includes the leaders in the field.
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