Another postcard of the Dollis Brook in North West London. It never ceases to amaze me how such a minor brook, main feeder to a minor river, should have been seen as a worthy subject for postcard production. Did the postcard manufacturer Photochrom Co. Ltd. London feel that there was a potential market of proud proto-suburbanites eager to share with family and friends postcards of the rurban environment that would soon be ‘graced’ by semi-detached dwellings in manicured, tree-lined avenues?
Something caught my eye when I took a closer look at the postcard – that dark-suited figure mid-way along the path leading from the bottom left hand corner of the postcard towards the Church Lane Viaduct. He seems to stare, in a mildly disinterested way, directly towards the photographer, with a hands-in-pockets nonchalance – is this the Finchley Flâneur perhaps?
[…] among all the versions of the flâneur everything from primeval slacker to a silent poet one thing remains constant: the image of an observant and solitary man strolling about […] Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust p199
The writer as walker. Invariably male. Unmasker of the undercity. Raising strolling to an art form or critique. Mind affected by matter. Baudelaire or Walter Benjamin’s The Painter of Modern Life. A nostalgic figure proclaiming the wonders of city life, yet doomed to jaywalk on car-choked streets.
The surrealists provide an account of a new kind of wanderer, alive to the potential transformation of the city and engaged in those subversive and playful practices that were later to become the hallmark of the Situationists. Here, once again, the wanderer whose movements transform his surroundings provides a link with a lost tradition that reclaims the city as the site for political and aesthetic experimentation. Merlin Coverley, Psychogeography p58
A new urban type. Isolated and estranged. A man in and of the crowd yet simultaneously detached, an observer on a haphazard and seemingly aimless journey of discovery. Immersed in the emergence of an expanding city. Enjoying the art of mindful straying. A chameleon figure – stroller-explorer-detective-fantasist-collector-curator – curious. Open-minded. A mental traveller, touched by time and place.
Can there be such a thing as a rural flâneur?