One November morning, Tom Jeffreys set off from Euston Station with a gnarled old walking stick in his hand and an overloaded rucksack. His aim was to walk the 119 miles from London to Birmingham along the proposed route of HS2. Needless to say, he failed.
Over the course of ten days of walking, Jeffreys meets conservationists and museum directors, fiery farmers and suicidal retirees. From a rapidly changing London, through interminable suburbia, and out into the English countryside, Jeffreys goes wild camping in Perivale, flees murderous horses in Oxfordshire, and gets lost in a landfill site in Buckinghamshire. Signal Failure weaves together poetry and politics, history, philosophy and personal observation to form an extended exploration of people and place, nature, society, and the future.
In part, Signal Failure is the story of the author’s multiple shortcomings — his inability to understand the city he lives in, to forge a meaningful relationship with his home-county hometown, to emulate those great nature writers he admires so much, to put up a tent or read a map.
It is also a wide-ranging critique of humanity’s most urgent failures: of capitalism, of community, of the city and the suburbs, of architecture and agriculture, of bureaucratic democracy, and, in the end, of our age-old failure to find our place in the world we live in.