Saturday, 16 June 2018

Genes on:Why we are what we are and why we are who we are.

Charles II of Spain was the last Habsburg ruler of the vast Spanish empire and despite being married twice he was unable to produce an heir, an event which triggered the War of the Spanish Succession and cost more than a million lives. His first wife, Marie Louise of Orleans, complained of the king's impotence and his second, Maria Anna of Neuburg, said he suffered from premature ejaculation.

El Hechizado (the hexed or bewitched as Charles II became known) was the result of several generations of inbreeding. It wasn't accidental inbreeding either. It was done intentionally to enhance what the Habsburgs would've seen as positive attributes and defining characteristics, like pugs or something. Charles II and most of his forebears had huge protruding chins and Charles, being the last in line, had a bigger one than most. If only they'd concentrated on developing a perfect, or at least functional, cock instead of a chin, perhaps war could've been avoided.

This was eugenics in all but name. As his grandparents' children married his grandparents' grandchildren and so on and so on making their family tree look more like a plate of spaghetti than the usual grid, or 'tree', format Charles ended up with a tongue so swollen he could hardly talk and malfunctioning sexual organs to go with a mandibular prominence so infamous it'd be the envy of Jimmy Hill. Recent studies have shown Charles to be more inbred than the child of two siblings.

This was just one of the many fascinating stories in Dr Adam Rutherford's two hour long talk 'A brief history of everyone who ever lived' at Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub on Wednesday. Except it wasn't quite that. At the start of the talk the affable, good natured, informed, educated, and thirsty Dr Rutherford announced he wasn't going to do the advertised talk but a different one. One about Nazis, eugenics, and racism. People cheered. People love talks about Nazis.

Adam is a young (43), good looking (according to my friend Vicki, though I'd concur) geneticist, author, and broadcaster who contributes to The Guardian and Radio 4 and has delivered the Darwin Day lecture for the British Humanist Association and a Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture at the Royal Geographical Society. His books include Creation:The Origin of Life, The Ladybird Book of Genetics for kids, and the upcoming Book of Humans with impressive illustrations by Alice Roberts, another one of those people who seem to be able to turn their hand to just about anything.

He kicked off the talk by telling us that every single one of us is descended from Charlemagne before going on to say that genetics, as a science, is only about one hundred years old and that it's only been in the last ten or fifteen years that it's really been studied as a sophisticated science. People used to think they knew a lot about genetics but the last decade or so has proved that the picture is far more complex than we'd once imagined and revealed there is still a very long way to go before we understand why we are what we are and why we are who we are.

Misunderstanding of genetics is the ultimate manifestation of identity politics but misunderstanding of genetics is very easy. It's a difficult subject. Luckily Dr Rutherford realised this was a pub, not a lecture theatre, and kept the science very much on layman's terms. Pop science like Brian Cox if you like but there's nothing wrong with that and, in fact, very much right with it.

The science of genetics (the word dates back to ancient Greece) really got going with the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel who inbred pea plants and established clear patterns in the resultant wrinkliness, colour, and height of these specimens. Without naming it he'd prefigured the gene as the unit of inheritance.

People have claimed the ability to roll one's tongue is inherited through the genes as well as the colour of one's eyes, a popular belief is that blue eyes carry a recessive gene and brown eyes a dominant one meaning that eventually, one would assume, blue eyes would die out. Which they clearly haven't. Dr Rutherford said these basic errors in understanding genetics were down to one thing. Genetics are probabilistic not deterministic. It's highly likely that a brown eyed father and a blue eyed mother would have a brown eyed child but it's by no means guaranteed.

DNA tests in North America, provided by companies like 23andMe, claim to be able to identify your 'tribe' (for money) but, really, we all hail from many many tribes. Provided we're not inbred (and most of us will be just a little somewhere along the line) we'll all hail from many different tribes. If you go back just ten generations you should have somewhere close to 1,024 different great great great great great great great great grandparents and, of course, we all go back way more than ten generations.

That's why the doctor can be so sure we're all descended from Charlemagne and how he can have confidence in saying that every pale skinned person in that room has the much in demand Viking ancestry. You go far enough back and everyone is descended from everyone. We're all one big family. Show some love!

Francis Galton was Mendel's co-star in this talk. The Birmingham man did a lot of things in his life. Some of them have stood the test of time. Others not so much. On the plus side he invented the weather map, pioneered biometrics and fingerprinting, and produced the first description of synaesthesia. Less impressively he coined the pernicious phrase 'nature versus nurture' (nurture is part of nature), came up with a frankly bizarre new method of cutting cakes (was that a big problem in Victorian times?), and, most creepily of all, came up with what he considered to be a scientific scale for measuring women's attractiveness. Galton would hang around local parks looking at women and then marking them between one and six based on some preordained factors. Some women were understandably not best pleased with this so Galton invented what he called 'pricker gloves'. With these he simply had to wear these modified gloves and when he saw an attractive woman put his gloved hands in his trouser pockets and fiddle around with some counters he'd secreted down there. Yep, that would look absolutely fine!

It was too good an anecdote to leave out but the reason Galton cropped up in our talk was that he, essentially, invented eugenics. Or at least as a scientific idea (the word, as ever, is Greek). He was quite the advocate of it too. Proposing monetary incentives for those with healthy minds and bodies or, simply, lots of money already.

It wasn't seen as a nefarious idea until the Nazis took the ball and ran with it. If you think of it we all practise a form of eugenics anyway. We generally choose the person we wish to have children with based on their looks, personality, and other, sometimes unclear, factors. I've even proposed the idea that the reason men are attracted to larger breasts is because, subconsciously, they know their offspring won't go hungry!

But forced eugenics? That was a bad idea then, it got worse with the Nazis, and it's still bad now. Back in the day it wasn't just something the right wing were able to get on board with. Vocal advocates of eugenics included Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Bernard Shaw. Such was the passion even eugenicist Valentine's cards were available.

It wasn't just Nazi Germany that installed eugenic programming as a state policy but also Sweden and the USA. California (perhaps unsurprisingly given that state's predilection for creating fake realities:think Disneyland, LSD, or cyberspace) had the most enthusiastic policy regarding eugenics and, shockingly, the last forced female sterilisation happened there as recently as 2010.

So, it's not just a hot potato and an unfinished story science wise but politically so as well. Thus, the talk didn't tie up neatly in the end but drifted off into a fascinating, and unresolved, Q&A session. Much like our lives themselves. We have a rough idea where we come from but we don't know exactly. We have an even rougher idea of where we're going. Life is like science. There are things we know to be true and there are things we know to be untrue but we can discover things that change everything. We can have lives turned upside down by events that happen in them but with science even our past is a movable feast.

It'd been a great evening that'd given me quite a lot to think about. We'd had a look at some frankly disturbing far right neo-Nazi websites, we'd learnt that celebrated birth control pioneer Marie Stopes was a virulent racist and ableist who wrote love letters and poems to 'Dear' Herr Hitler, and we'd even heard that giraffe's neck lengths had evolved for fighting rather than nutrition ('necking' they amusingly call it, and like the human version of necking sometimes things go further, the winning giraffe celebrates by bumming, raping, his vanquished foe and ejaculating into his anus). We know this but scientists still remain flummoxed to one of the eternal mysteries of our time. Why do men with no ginger hair on their head whatsoever get, in middle age, ginger in their beards?

Thanks to Vicki for coming to this with me, thanks to Professor Chris French for hosting yet another wonderful evening in the Star & Garter, but, mostly, thanks to Dr Adam Rutherford for giving up his entire evening to talk passionately, amusingly, and knowledgeably about such an endlessly interesting subject. I'd recommend buying one of his books.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

America's Cool Modernism:Architecture as Abstraction/Architecture as Emotion.

“You can be lonely anywhere but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city surrounded by millions of people.” - Olivia Laing, The Lonely City:Adventures in the Art of Being Alone.

You won't see many people at all in the 'precisionist' paintings that make up Oxford Ashmolean Museum's compact and bijou, yet very impressive, show of American art from the first half of the last century. But there's still an undeniable presence about many of these paintings. At times a sense of wonder or awe, at times a sense of foreboding or dread.

American art doesn't tend to get out to Europe as much as it probably should so many of the artists on show at the Ashmolean are far from household names here. Sure, there's a trio of Edward Hoppers, a couple of Georgia O'Keeffes, some minor but impressive work by Grant Wood as well as some by second tier names like Stuart Davis, the Charleses Sheeler and Demuth, Arthur Dove, and O Louis Guglielmi but many artists on show here were both new and revelatory to me. Not least George Ault of whom more later.

Marden Hartley - Painting No.50 (1914-15)

The show starts, ever so slightly, on the wrong foot with a room mostly full of purely abstract works including paintings inspired by the simplicity and honesty of Shaker furniture, native American motifs (Marden Hartley, above) and Dadaist renderings of knitting machines (Morton Schamberg, below). There's even a painting by E E Cummings who'd later achieve widespread fame by affecting to have his initials written in lower case and composing poems like 'i carry you heart with me' and 'anyone lived in a pretty how town'.

They're not bad paintings but they're not really paintings that speak in their own accent. They're still in hock to the then dominant European art scene. The likes of Edward Steichen and Arthur Dove were making tentative steps towards a new, American, art but it would take World War II and the rise of abstract expressionism and then pop art before New York truly replaced Paris as the world art capital.

E E Cummings - Sound (1919)

Morton Schamberg - Untitled (Mechanical Abstraction) (1916)

Edward Steichen - Le Tournesol (The Sunflower) (c.1921)

Arthur Dove - Penetration (1924)

This linear explanation of art history has had the rather unfortunate effect of sidelining some wonderful artists who don't quite fit into that narrative. Dove has been considered to be America's first abstract artist though his works here, Penetration (above) and Fishboat (below), are representative even if they're painted at such close, or obscure, angles as to give the impression of abstraction. 

Helen Torr's Houses on a Barge looks more surreal than abstract. It looks like the sort of painting that Alfred Wallis may've come up with after a chance meeting with Salvador Dali. It's rather charming even if it's something of an outlier in America's Cool Modernism. Not being particularly 'cool' (whatever that means) or modern.

Helen Torr - Houses on a Barge (1925)

Arthur Dove - Fishboat (1930)

Joseph Stella - Telegraph Poles with Buildings (1917)

Joseph Stella's Telegraph Poles with Buildings dates from eight years before Torr's work but certainly qualifies as both cool and modern. Electric blue clouds, fiery red edifices, and telegraph poles that poke out into the sooty sky with all the menace of a gothic horror.

Niles Spencer may've set his Waterfront Mill in a, marginally, less polluted atmosphere but it still contains within it a sense of menace. Where are the people? Where have they all gone? What goes on in these buildings? This is Lowry after the holocaust. 

Niles Spencer - Waterfront Mill (1940)

Charles Sheeler - Water (1945)

By the time of Spencer's work, as well as Charles Sheeler's imposing Water, architecture was being celebrated for itself. In America they had built a new society, one that would soon become the world's dominant power, and its monolithic water towers, skyscrapers, bridges, and underpasses all become shorthand not just for the imposing new masters of the world but also for the anxieties that nation's citizens would've felt undergoing such dramatic changes, living in such interesting times. As Europe was being destroyed by war the USA was capitalising on mass immigration to build cheaply, quickly, and with very clear motivations.

Architectural set pieces, like those seen in Charles Sheeler's MacDougal Alley, left people without privacy, without intimacy, and sometimes without sunlight. Yet they looked amazing. Dehumanization could come in many forms and there was beauty in the stacks of the city as they spread out miles in every direction. Dismissed by many in Britain as concrete jungles at the time but now we celebrate concrete and know that jungles hold the widest array of life anyone could  hope to find. 

Charles Sheeler - MacDougal Alley (1924)

Charles Demuth - I Saw The Figure 5 In Gold (1928)

So it was in expanding American cities like New York and Pittsburgh (California had yet to really develop its own art scene but when it did it would be a different thing again). George Ault's Hoboken Factory from 1932 was probably my favourite painting in the entire exhibition. The glow of the streetlamp, the unlit lower floor, the mysteriously lit upper floor, and the long shadows. It looks like CCTV footage and it's tempting to stare at it for a few more minutes in the anticipation that something happens.

But, of course, nothing happens - in this or most of the other paintings on show in Oxford. Buildings stand as silent sentinels dwarfing people. We look up to them but they resolutely ignore us. Buildings can make us happy, they can make us sad, and in the case of George Ault I'd wager they can do both  of these things at the same time. Ault was a troubled man. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1891 three of his four siblings took their own lives and he became an alcoholic after his mother died in a mental institution before alienating himself from the art world with his increasingly neurotic behaviour. It's a shame because on the, admittedly scant, evidence here he was a very great, and clearly under rated, artist. Potentially the Giorgio de Chirico of the Midwest!

George Ault - Hoboken Factory (1932)

George Ault - New York Night, No 2 (1921)

If Hoboken Factory was the work that jumped out at me then New York Night, No 2 is not far behind. It's either dawn or dusk in the Big Apple and the lights of an oncoming vehicle appear to be shining through the half-lit streets. It could, like many works here, be the setting for a film noir.

Which is certainly something you could also say for Gordon Coster's Pittsburgh. Telegraph poles (quite the trope in this art) lean uneasily towards a curve in the railway line as a a train chugs out of the station and past some industrial chimneys. It's a scene all too familiar these days but it seems to speak of a golden age of rail travel. The days of porters, buffet cars, and, in the US, cow crushers. It could be a still from an early Alfred Hitchcock film.

George Ault - View from Brooklyn (1927)

Gordon Coster - Pittsburgh (c.1930)

Paul Strand - Under the El, New York (1915)

Interspersed among the paintings are a few etchings, a film, a poem by William Carlos Williams, and some photographs by the likes of Imogen Cunningham and Paul Strand. They certainly don't dominate, or even detract from, the paintings but they do complement them quite neatly. They have the same sense of a busy city caught at a quiet, solitary, moment and as such they're equally reflective.

Less so, despite still being unpopulated, is Jacob Lawrence's panel no 31 from his Migration Series. A rare African-American artist (possibly the only one?) in this show his work deviates a little from the powerful yet formulaic, and precise, paintings of Sheeler and Ault. They even have a sense of jazz about them in their loose adherence to colour and composition. The placings of those Harlem windows are as free as a John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders solo.

Jacob Lawrence - The Migration Series panel No.31:The migrants found improved housing when they arrived north (1940-41)

Stuart Davis - Jefferson Market, New York (1930)

Niles Spencer - Erie Underpass (1949)

Louis Lozowick's work seems to look towards Soviet constructivism or even the De Stijl paintings of Piet Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg. There's even a hint of Wyndham Lewis's vorticism. It's a world away from Niles Spencer's childlike Erie Underpass or the bright fairground colours of Stuart Davis's Jefferson Market, New York and it shows how the curators have opened up this show in a variety of new and interesting ways.

Paul Kelpe's Machinery looks like the sort of contraption that swallowed up Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times and Louis Lozowick and Howard Cook's lithographs both demonstrated just how much can be done with this source material and initiated a debate between me and my friends as to what a lithograph actually is. Wikipedia informs me that it's printing from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. So that's that one sorted.

Louis Lozowick - Red Circle (1924)

Paul Kelpe - Machinery (Abstract #2) (1933-34)

Louis Lozowick - New York (1925)

Howard Cook - Times Square Sector (1930)

George Josimovich - Illinois Central (1927)

Will Gompertz, writing for BBC News, claimed, of this exhibition, that "it really takes something to make an Edward Hopper painting feel overly populated" and so it proved (though who would ever doubt such a man as Gompertz). There may only be two people in the three Hopper paintings that dominate the third room of the show but that's pretty hectic compared to what's come before.

Of course, the Hopper paintings are good. Everybody knows that by now. They're probably not his best but it seems most of those tend to stay in the US. From Williamsburg Bridge is textbook Hopper, a solitary human sits at an open window as nothing much happens, Down in Pennsylvania catches a train station late at night just as the, presumably, last train departs leaving the platform empty, and Manhattan Bridge Loop captures a lone man walking home alone late at night as the buildings loom large in the distance. I've said before that Hopper's paintings to me are more solitary than lonely but these now seem more imbued with loneliness than before. Perhaps it's how the other paintings have set my mind, perhaps it's my age, perhaps it's my own present circumstances. Who knows? What I do know, what I have learnt, is that loneliness and solitude can look very very similar to an outsider but feel very very different in the soul of the person who's experiencing it.

Edward Hopper - From Williamsburg Bridge (1928)

Edward Hopper - Down in Pennsylvania (1942)

Martin Lewis - Which Way? (1932)

Edward Hopper - Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928)

Martin Lewis's Which Way?, a small black and white piece, holds its own impressively in the room with the Hoppers. The curators (with, very possibly, a winked eye pointing towards the current US administration) hint that it's not just the driver that's lost in inclement weather but possibly the country itself. Yes, an analogy. I suppose it works but, for me, the painting works best as an animation of the psychological horror of living everyday as a human being.

Grant Wood goes as far as to humanise his grain sheds and houses. Fertility seems not only to speak of the fertile land of the Iowa corn belt he was raised in but also the gravid architecture of the shed itself. It begins a neat little coda to the whole exhibition with buildings painted in vivid colour (inspired by both Cezanne and Picasso we're informed), by Charles Sheeler (again, he's as much a star of this show as Hopper and Ault) and Ralston Crawford.

No barns, silos, or elevators look like that in real life, if you saw one you'd be freaked, but these paintings capture the essence, the immensity of the buildings and the country they reside in, and something of their awesome, and potentially awful power. The last painting as we leave is Georgia O'Keeffe's Ranchos Church from 1930. Its grey funereal surface looking for all the world like a gigantic tomb. If that's supposed to hint that American art and culture is dead then I can't agree at all. The cultural life of the USA is enduring a tough patch but I'm pretty confident that great art, again, will come out of the country and soon the dark imposing skies of George Ault's Hoboken Factory will give way to the sunlit uplands of Charles Sheeler's Bucks County Barn. There's just too many good people there not to let that happen. I hope!

Grant Wood - Fertility (1939)

Charles Sheeler - Bucks County Barn (1940)

Ralston Crawford - Smith Silo, Exton (1936-37)

Ralston Crawford - Buffalo Grain Elevators (1937)

Georgia O'Keeffe - Ranchos Church (1930)

Thanks to Colin, Alex, Tony, Jo, Grace, Izzie, and Max for joining me for a great little art exhibition, a wonderful sunny afternoon underneath the dreaming spires, and, of course, a (not inconsiderable) debrief in the pub afterwards.

Monday, 11 June 2018

TADS #21:Hassocks to Brighton (or Fulking Hill, It's Fred Titmus).

"And did those feet in ancient times walk on England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England's pleasant pastures seen!" - Jerusalem, William Blake.

If, as it has been suggested by William Blake in his 1804 poem, Jesus not only visited England but specifically the South Downs it seems unlikely that the son of God would've fallen down a rabbit hole, got lost whilst trying to navigate his way round a chalk pit, or have been daft enough to wear a cardigan while ascending a fairly steep escarpment on a muggy June day.

On the other hand, I'm willing to wager that I enjoyed my visit to the area more than JC. In his day the wonderful Shepherd and Dog wouldn't have been built and the idea of getting a decent curry in Hove would still be nearly a couple of thousand years away. TADS 2 Jesus 0.

Not that the day started off particularly smoothly for me. With time to spare, and plans to meet my friend Dan for a cuppa in Hassocks before heading off, I managed to get on the wrong train. I ended up in Horsham heading towards Portsmouth. I had to get off, go back to Three Bridges, and from there to Hassocks where six patient TADS were waiting for me outside a coffee shop.

If I couldn't organise myself to get the correct train to the starting point of the walk what chance did I have of guiding TADS across the South Downs and in to Brighton without getting lost? After last month's successful, and pretty easy, stroll along the Itchen in to Winchester I'd warned the troops that this walk was going to be tougher, steeper, and longer. I'd been a bit ambitious, born of a confidence that people coming back, by using an OS Explorer map to plot what would, at times, prove to be a tricky route to follow.

In Hassocks I loaded up with a packet of Bobby's Spirals and me, Shep, Teresa, Adam, Pam, Neil, and Eamon set off. Kathy and Rachael were, unfortunately, both unwell, Bee was bogged down with work, Tina took a raincheck, and Virginie is still on long term maternity leave. We hope to see them all back in the fold soon.

Hassocks (a large village, not a town) is believed to take its name from the tufts of grass in the nearby fields. Fields like Butcher's Wood and Lag's Wood that we passed alongside. Hassocks came into being when Hassocks Gate station opened in 1841 and, heading south not long after Hassocks, the train enters the Clayton Tunnel. We crossed the railway line on the A273 Brighton Road which afforded us great views and photo opportunities of said tunnel.

The Clayton tunnel is over 2k long and took three years to build. It's probably an easier way to get through the South Downs but it's certainly not such a pretty one. In 1861 two trains collided in the tunnel killing twenty three people.

Notable Hassocks residents include football commentator Jonathan Pearce and graphic novelist Raymond Briggs (Fungus the Bogeyman, When the Wind Blows, The Snowman) and Hangover Square author Patrick Hamilton was born in the village in 1904.

We passed the Jack & Jill pub (where some of us had spent a boozy afternoon last summer) and carried on down New Way Lane past Little Danny Farm. Eventually the road turned right and north and we headed straight on down what was now a footpath.

The footpath curved south and eventually we reached a junction of various different tracks. A quick consultation of the map confirmed we didn't need to take the high road and nor did we need to take the low road. Instead of going over the top of Wolstonbury Hill (or round it) we were cutting through the side of it.

It was still relatively steep but that didn't seem to be deterring the local hash house harriers, some of whom were jogging up it, who were already 10k and one pint into their constitutional. They trotted out the hoary old line about being a "drinking club with a running problem" but they seemed a decent bunch of coves. It's something to do on a Saturday afternoon. Like going on a walk.

It seemed a good point to take a breather and to recite Rudyard Kipling's poem 'The Run of the Downs' so that was what I did.

The Weald is good, the Downs are best
I'll give you the run of 'em, East to West
Beachy Head and Winddoor Hill
They were once and they are still
Firle, Mount Caburn, and Mount Harry
Ditchling Beacon and Chanctonbury Ring
They have looked on many a thing
And what those two have missed between 'em
I reckon Truleigh Hill had seen 'em
Highden, Bignor, and Duncton Down
Knew Old England before the Crown
Linch Down, Treyfood, and Sumwood
Knew Old England before the flood
And when you end on Hampshire side
Butser's as old as time and tide
The Downs are sheep, the Weald is corn
You be glad you are Sussex born

The South Downs cover 260 square miles from the Itchen Valley to Beachy Head with, at 270m, Butser Hill near Peterborough, the highest point and it's not just Rudyard Kipling they inspired. Edward Elgar, Arnold Bax, and Frank Bridge all wrote music influenced by the area, Hilaire Belloc called them "the great hills of the South country", Algernon Charles Swinburne rhapsodised about "the green smooth swelling unending downs", and Graham Greene set the majority of his first published novel, The Man Within, here. And then, of course, there's William Blake.

It's easy to see why they've so affected people. The views are outstanding and the air, even on a pretty 'close' day, seems clearer, lighter up here.

Wolstonbury Hill led us to Round Hill and some heated discussion about what route we had to take. We could see the A23 in front of us but how did we get down to it. Everywhere looked a bit, er, steep! Eamon had a look over the side of a very vertiginous looking drop before we decided to head back and go down a marginally less steep incline. At this point my foot fell down a rabbit hole. I was in up to my knee but, fortunately, no harm was done. I'm actually surprised I've never fallen down a rabbit hole before.

Leg retrieved we descended between a chalk pit and Round Hill and passed under the A23. The path we needed to follow here was too overgrown so we headed along the side of a dual carriageway. I was a little anxious here as we seemed to be heading in the wrong direction and losing more time (time I'd already cost the group in Hassocks and later on Round Hill). Fortunately a path appeared and took us back on a quiet lane that led us towards Poynings.

Before we reached Poynings we cut through some fields until we reached Clappers Lane and followed that until we reached the handsome village sign that welcomed us to Fulking. Fulking is one of those quintessentially English villages that most of us could never hope to have enough money to live in.

Large white houses and beautiful lawns flanked each side of the road as we passed by a spring with a tiled inscription from a psalm in honour of John Ruskin. We paused briefly but our main stop was to be The Shepherd and Dog pub. Truth be told I based this entire walk on getting a chance to visit this pub. Some months ago I Googled "South East England's best beer gardens" and this came up in the list. When I looked at its location the walk began to write itself.

I was so pleased that neither the pub nor the weather let us down. There was an apple and swine festival on but we took pints of Yulu and Wanderlust to one of the pub's two beer gardens, the one by the babbling brook had no tables free, and sat in the sunshine. Two hours later than planned but enjoying great beers, great sunshine, and great company. Children ate toffee apples, pop music was piped out at an agreeable volume, and strategically placed hay bales gave the garden a delightful rustic feel. The only concern was the looming escarpment of Fulking Hill towering behind us. Some were unsure regarding how ready they were for the ascent. I tried to salve their concerns by saying once we were up the coast, and Brighton, would be laid out in front of us and that this would be a great psychological boost. I'm not sure if that worked.

But, after the inevitable and well earned (it was nearly 4pm by the time we reached the pub) 'two pint mistake', we had no option. We had to ascend. So we did. Pam and Teresa even had a little lie down at one point as we gathered altitude and looked down on seagulls flying below us.

Hill runners who'd started in Winchester at the crack of dawn that morning ran past, coming to the end of their one hundred mile run, which put our exertions into perspective. There was some more frenzied map reading before we crossed past Devil's Dyke Farm on to Devil's Dyke Road. To our left stood The Dyke Golf Club. It seems this area, like so much countryside, is scarred by golf courses. As well as The Dyke Golf Club we passed Brighton & Hove Golf Club, West Hove Golf Club, and Benfield Valley Golf Course all in a two to three mile stretch.

At least it meant some of us could empty our bladders. While toilet breaks were being taken I looked up the set Half Man Half Biscuit played at the Forum in Kentish Town the previous night. It was a gig I'd like to go to but I couldn't trust myself not to get drunk and didn't fancy attempting Fulking Hill with a hangover. It turned out HMHB began their set with 'Fucking Hell, It's Fred Titmus'. I considered this a good omen.

We descended past a house where a lively looking party was going on and also saw some tumuli before eventually reaching the A27 Shoreham Bypass. There we followed, briefly, the Monarch's Way, a frankly ludicrous 615 mile path that approximates the very peculiar route that Charles II took when he went into exile to escape probable execution by Oliver Cromwell's army after losing the 1651 Battle of Worcester to the New Model Army. No rest for the wicked indeed.

Luckily the section we followed was reasonably straight and short. We arrived in West Blatchington, part of Hove, and soon passed the West Blatchington windmill (a Grade II listed smock mill, named because it looks like a farmer's smock apparently) that looked fairly incongruous in a Hove suburb. It was built in the 1820s and painted by John Constable in 1825 (he did a painting of it, he wasn't, to the best of my knowledge, a painter and decorator). Mostly these windmills are octagonal but in Blatchington we were fortunate enough to see a rare hexagonal example. They use it as a polling station these days.

Past Hove dog track and across Hove Recreation Ground it was getting late and if we were to make Brighton we'd have to sacrifice a curry. We were hungry and, after agreeing we'd all been to Brighton many times and this day was about walking more than anything, we decided to stop in the Spice Tandoori in Hove. It had had good reviews and it didn't disappoint.

Location wise it was on a very unassuming row of shops on the busy A270 Old Shoreham Road but once inside it was great. Pretty busy too. They had Bangla as well. Five of us had a Bangla. Teresa opted out of beer completely and Neil decided that drinking beer from bottles is for 'girls' and had a pint or four of Cobra.

My paneer shashlik and chapati combo worked for me too. So much so that a second Bangla was required to wash it down. Settled up we wandered to Hove station. Pam, Neil, Eamon, and I took a train to Brighton and changed for London and Shep, Adam, and Teresa managed to find a direct train to Clapham Junction.

The TADS may not have reached Brighton but Hove actually turned out to be a more than adequate ending point. It'd been a long day and yet it still seemed to be coming to an end too soon. Part of me wanted to head out in to the Brighton night and 'get on it' but it was good that I didn't. I got home not long after midnight and I think I was probably asleep before my head hit the pillow. It was nice to wake up the next day free from a hangover and it was even better, as ever, to share the day with such lovely friends. Next month it's the annual TADS two day trek, this year from Wareham to Bournemouth overnighting in Swanage, and though it can be logistically tricky for some to do it'd be great to see as many faces, familiar and new, sat in a pub garden underneath Corfe Castle as possible.