Tom Hodgkinson: A short walk around my neighbourhood

 

Share
Related Topics

Following a recent crisis and near breakdown caused by overwork – and yes, I am aware of the irony that the editor of The Idler has suffered such an affliction – a friend advised me to take two 15-minute walks each day. I have followed her advice and found this strategy to be extremely effective: a brisk stroll really does calm you down. It relieves anxiety.

This new resolution to pace the streets has merged with another idea put forward by my friend Sir Timothy Ackroyd, the very well-connected actor and favoured customer at the Idler Academy. He advised that I should get off the computer and do some old-fashioned marketing, meaning going out there and talking to people. Like many of us, I am tempted by the seductions of the digital world, and spend an inordinate number of hours sitting in front of a screen or phone, Twittering, texting, emailing and updating our website in my efforts to get bums on seats for the events we hold.

But how effective is all this digital activity? Doesn't most of it get lost in the soup of noughts and ones? "Let's get out there and meet people," said Tim. "Get a pile of flyers and we'll go and communicate in person."

So it was that yesterday Sir Tim arrived at the shop at 11am and we set off for a wander around the streets of west London. We walked down Chepstow Road and turned into Westbourne Grove. "Look!" said Tim. "There's Michael Gove. Hello, Michael!" And sure enough, there he was, Secretary of State for Education, standing at a bus stop, speaking into his mobile phone. We gave him some flyers which he accepted with great charm. "Oh yes!" he said. "I'm a fan."

Maybe Mr Gove says this to everyone who thrusts a flyer into his hand, but it was gratifying nonetheless. What better person to inform of our pedagogical activities than the man in charge of national education policy? "Grammar, Latin and ukulele lessons," I boasted. "Long live the old school. We are taking education into our own hands!"

Next we visited the owner of the Aphrodite café, who greeted us warmly and took some flyers. Then we meandered up to Notting Hill Gate, where Tim cried out "Ben!" And who should it be but television's Ben Fogle? Mr Fogle patiently listened to us explain the aims of the Idler Academy and expressed interest in giving a talk.

Our next stop was Notting Hill Books, a lovely little shop where we happened to bump into an Idler Academy regular. "You must put me on your mailing list," he said. "I was very disappointed to miss your Montaigne event." Outside the shop we flyered a bookish couple who promised to pop round.

Our little promenade then took us down Holland Park Avenue, where we hoped to bump into Tony Benn, but alas did not. However, we did drop off a flyer at PD James's house. Then we went on to the very wonderful Daunt Books, where they kindly let us put some flyers on their counter. It struck me that I would have been far too shy to ask such a favour had I been alone. But with Tim by my side, "bigging up" the enterprise on my behalf, everything seemed easy.

Truly, this was highly targeted marketing. We were finding all the literary types in the area, just by going for a walk. Another nice encounter was with a small business owner who was doing exactly the same as us: wandering the streets and handing out flyers for her enterprise, a stress-relief massage business. Clearly we are not alone in embracing the old-fashioned methods. It occurs to me that we should get really old-fashioned and invent some London cries, like the vendors of chestnuts and tripe from past centuries. "Come and get your lovely lessons in Plato! Aristotle next week! Roll up for the Stoics!"

The exercise reminded me of a scene in Julien Temple's film about Joe Strummer. Strummer spends a good hour or two out on the streets handing out flyers to advertise a gig he is playing that night. "You've got to hustle!" he remarks. And this is true: the small man has to hustle to survive, he has to get out there. Don't cut yourself off and hide behind a computer.

We returned to the shop after about an hour-and-a-half. Not only had I soothed my poor old nerves, but I had also done something useful and intensely enjoyable. You could call it therapeutic marketing. I look forward to more such brand-awareness drives with Sir Tim. So do look out for the two purposeful flâneurs of Notting Hill, if ever you are in the area. We'd love a chat.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick