My London: John Rogers

For writer John Rogers, there is nothing more frustrating than a nation so obsessed with trampling every corner of the globe and ignoring their home turf. An unashamed London fanatic, Rogers has written plays, sketches and stand-up comedy on the London fringe scene including several projects with comedian Russell Brand and currently presents Ventures and Adventures in Topography on Resonance FM.

But today, he’s our personal guide around his London.

What is your favourite area of London?
‘I’m reluctant to name one when there are so many to choose from. However, I’ve formed a deep attachment to Leytonstone, where I live – it’s hemmed in on two sides by Epping Forest and to the west is Leyton with the River Lea and the marshes. It’s the birthplace of one of the greatest film directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock, has one of London’s best live music nights, What’s Cookin and great cheap cafes and pubs.’

What is your most vivid London memory?
‘Walking back from Bethnal Green to Forest Gate in deep snow in 1991 with my mates at around four in the morning. We sledged on bread crates up the middle of the Mile End Road then climbed over the fence of West Ham Park to take the final short cut.’

What would your perfect London day out involve?
‘Walking till my knees stop working then collapsing in a pub for a couple of pints of ale.’

Which season do you most enjoy in London?
‘Autumn and early winter is the best season for walking, when it’s just cold enough to redden your cheeks. I walked from Sudbury Hill to Hanwell across Horsenden Hill and through Perivale on Remembrance Sunday last year for the book upon a carpet of bronze leaves almost the whole way.’

Where in London have you never been, but have always wanted to go?
‘There are still loads of places in London I’ve never been; it is one of the reasons I wrote the book. Whenever I randomly flick through a 1955 Atlas of Greater London I’m always landing on places that I’ve never heard of let alone been to. At the moment I’m dreaming of walking out to Eltham.’

Who is your favourite Londoner?
‘Tough question, so many candidates. My current favourite is Thomas Burke, author of The Outer Circle: Rambles in Remote London – a brilliant book about schlepping around places like Ilford, Woolwich and Fortis in the early 1920s.’

What do you think is London’s best-kept secret?
‘The view from Blythe Hill Fields.’

Which song, book or film do you think best encapsulates London?
‘The Sandwich Man, a 1966 comedy starring Michael Bentine who goes on a lopsided wander across London from Docklands to the West End.’

How does London drive you mad?
‘The rapacious property development with scant regard for local objections or heritage.’

Where would you go in London to revisit your past?
‘Forest Gate where I lived in two different houses during my first happy years as a student at City of London Polytechnic. The walk from Angel down to the South Bank which I did every day for four years when my children were born, I’m always tripping over old memories when I schlep round that way.’

Where do you go in London to relax?
‘A walk across Wanstead Flats then a pint in my local.’

Who is your biggest inspiration in life?
‘My two sons.’

What would you recommend everyone in London do at least once?
‘To step outside your front door and just walk in a straight line and keep going following your nose – you’ll see more in the space of a day than in all your previous time in the city.’

What projects do you have in the pipeline?
‘Another book – there’s so much more to explore.’

This Other London – Adventures in the Overlooked City by John Rogers is out now (HarperCollins, £12.99).

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