Why the Flaneur? Why undertake a walk using this concept? When I first looked out of my flat window I had no idea what the point of this walk would be which is in fitting with the concept of the Flaneur as Merlin Coverly describes,
“There is no direct equivalent in English for the French verb Flaneur: to stroll, saunter drift, dawdle, loiter, linge”
(Merlin Coverley, The Art of Walking, pp265)
So by definition the point is there is no point to Flaneuring, and as stated when I started my walk there was no point to the walk except wondering past my window. Which again is in fitting with the concept. But I soon found out the walk itself would produce results and open my eyes to the effects of modernity past my flat window.
I decided to start my Flaneur of black Heath by simply looking at what is right in front of me. Which in my case as seen above is the Royal Standard Pub. Many peoples dream if only I was not Ttotal. I then let my feet guide me down the back streets around the pub which is an urban maze of Victorian and Edwardian houses. which are quite architecturally outstanding to look at and remind me of a drama upstairs downstairs. A drama about upperclass English society and their servants divided by not only class but by the house itself. The family occupying the top levels and the servants consigned to the lower levels. Know these divides do not exist and the houses are divided into flats, this is a clear sign of modernity and social change.
Looking at these two photos I begin to concern myself with the amount of cars on the streets and how they were obscuring my view of these beatiful buildings. I realised at this point I was inadvertently following my morning running route which brought up another question can one inadvertently wonder? does the Flaneur exist? But that is a question for another time.
So I continued my walk to the famous Heath in the centre of black Heath village. I was truly alarmed at the effect of modernity on this once beatiful and green part of London, as you can see in the three pictures bellow,
The amount of cars on the Heath is alarming and a complete and utter blemish on the landscape. Modernity is completly shutting out the Beaty of the Heath and as you walk into the village itself the problem becomes even more prolific. The village itself contains a wealth of Edwardian and Victorian houses and shops, many of which still operating today. But I found it exceptionally hard to Flaneur, as if I strolled or wondered I was likely to get myself killed in a road accident. I could also not see the buildings properly due to traffic and the streets were not full of people only the roads were full of cars. Bellow are 4 pictures, two of the station, one taken in the early 1900s and its modern day standing. And the other two from street level, again one from the early 1900s and the other in its current state.
As you can see by observing the photos taken in the 1900s there are vertically no cars if any and the streets have more people in them. You can clearly see the houses and shops and there is far more space to wonder. There is no modern day litter or trafic signs and other ugly sours on the landscape. I have stood in a close position to the 1900s photos to clearly show the damage modernity has done to black Heath village. These images are striking in contrast showing Londons destruction and infringement upon rural communities I ask myself is this modernity and advancement? Or evidence of a histiography of mankinds destruction of there own environment.
How To put this into a histiography , this walk and these pictures have clearly shown the expansion of London in to our rural areas and the damage modernity has done to England’s green and pleasant land. And to further illustrate this alarming histiography of urban expansion here are three maps of London taken from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s respectively,
These images clearly show the expansion of roads , then the expansion of houses on the Heath as well as estates , changing and in my mind damaging Black Heath forever. This last picture is of the view I had eating my brunch observing the village of black Heath. But it does not fit in well with Keith Tester’s idea of Flaneuring,
“Such a knolidge of being in the crowd, such a princely incognito (as Baudelaire might well have called the anonymity of the poet) , gives the Baudelairean poet an ability to make for himself the meaning and the significance of the metropolitan spaces and the spectical of the public”
(Keith Tester, The Flaneur, pp4)
ok I have an idea of the metropolitan space and its use and clearly this is a great vantage point. But we’re are all the people ?(in their cars), I could not mix with a crowd of one lady and two people outside a shop. However I could choke on trafic fumes and gain a head ache with the noise of the trafic. Fanuering in a modern urban space would appear to be dead in black Heath. Only such people as Jeremy clarkson would get a kick out of watching the trafic in a hope of seeing an expensive and flashy car in a sexy color not my idea of fun or Flaneuring.
In conclusion Black Heath is no longer part of England’s green and pleasant land but an urban overcrowded, overpopulated modern tragedy, were modernity is destroying our most beatiful landscapes. It is in effect a histeography of natural distruction and urban expansion due to overpopulation.
Keith Tester, The Flaneur, Routledge
Merlin Coverly, The Art of Wondering, Oldcastle Books
Pictures of 1900,s Black Heath and maps, Black Heath town Hall and official web site