I set off and I’m not sure I want to go anywhere but I don’t want to be indoors. Then after a while I get a rhythm and I can’t stop walking.

I think I have spent my whole walking life looking for short cuts. I remember walking to school and working out that there was a reason why crossing diagonally across a patch of grass was shorter than walking round the the sides of it and as we were often short of time or wet, or cold, walking on wet grass was always worth it for the moments saved.

Even when I got the cycling bug and was able to ride my bike to school I still looked for the most direct route: slipping down alleyways or cutting through odd estates (slightly scary in some parts of Portsmouth) and doing slightly dangerous manoeuvres at junctions that I wouldn’t dream of now that I am a responsible-ish person.

Before I learned to drive at almost 30 years old I knew every short cut from my house to anywhere I needed to go and I was acutely aware that taking a wrong turn was a huge waste of precious time and to be avoided at all costs. Driving let me forget all this. I drove for fun, on adventures, down roads I didn’t know just so see where they went and to places that weren’t on the way to anywhere else. Oh how cheap petrol was back in the noughties!!

Now I am walking alone on my way to nowhere and thinking about how to make my journey longer, an unfamiliar habit which is growing on me. I don’t have any sportswear or walking shoes and I don’t carry anything with me; I just open the door and set off ignoring all the usual short cuts and planning ways to get further away from home. I add loops to my route and try to pick roads which are quiet without too much traffic noise and smell whilst avoiding passing the houses of people I know and don’t really want to see, or for them to see me. Some days I feel like I could start walking and not stop. I’d be a crazy woman in Lidl croc-a-likes walking to John O’Groats by accident then turning round and walking back again.

Why? I’m not exactly sure but all of a sudden I want to get away. I don’t feel very creative and I can’t sew because I don’t have enough free head space or real space to get started. I’m thinking about sewing a lot of things but I’m frustrated in my attempts to actually do it partly because people have piled their crap on top of the machine cabinet. I’m bored with working in our business, I hate cleaning up after five other people and trying to keep us from drowning in piles of clothes and paper and shoes and I need to get away from the wantiness, bickering and shrieking that punctuates my day. I’m also becoming more aware that my DVT leg isn’t that strong and I need to do something about it so that I don’t fall over when I’m skating or swim in circles in the pool.

This little creature has been walking around our garden in the daylight which is apparently what some young hedgehogs do when they don’t yet understand the rules of nocturnalism. S/he isn’t unwell or injured, just a bit dim and very sweet.


5 Comments to “Walking”

  1. I used to walk miles in my teens/early twenties. It didn’t matter where I was going just as long as I could keep going. Away. Setting up a rhythm, allowing my head to settle into that groove.

    It’s the thing I most missed as the kids got too old for a buggy and I could no longer walk ‘the baby’ 6 miles to nowhere via the chip shop and back. Once they were on legs and walking I had to go at their pace. And their pace was always too slow or too fast, or too ambling, or just the wrong direction for me.

    Whether it’s walking at someone else’s pace, or living your life at someone else’s pace, every-now-and-then I guess you just need to step away from it and find your own groove for a while.

  2. You’ve made me feel very envious as I used to walk loads where we used to live. It was a horrible house in a poo-splattered road in a depressing suburbany half council half private area which everyone else seemed to love. It was a social experiment after the war. Everyone probably thinks it’s a great success. Mix up the ‘types’. I hated every inch of it. But I knew every inch of it.

    If only to get out of the house I just used to set off with the buggy, dodging (not successfully) the dog poo and peering in at all the lovingly kept front gardens. Spotting the council houses that were now private cos they probably still had old windows and doors (as we had all had been recently uPVC’d). Some of the houses has mock tudor beams added. Some had their faded roof tiles painted bright red. One had a life-size Spiderman crawling up the front of their house – dressed at Fr Xmas in the winter. Some still didn’t have driveways done. One had intrepid terrapins patrolling their pond and garden. One had more hanging baskets than Babylon could have dreamed of. Most had the sound of dogs barking. Kids yelling. Mothers screeching. Dads bellowing. All among the older dears recalling the lines of real nappies hanging in neat rows in each garden.

    5 years ago we escaped and now live in rustic filth. No neighbours. No noise fascism. No dog poo. Yet we are miles away from anything to reach by foot safely. We never walk anywhere. I won’t even let the kids wander along to the nearest post box for fear of being squashed by a reckless 4×4 hurtling round a blind bend. We now live in the car bombing along the A22 and the A26 constantly.

    Move to the country! Taste the freedom! Get a fat arse!

    But I don’t have next door’s kids climbing over my fence. Or the Yellow Rose of Texas blaring out from the car horn across the road. Or Xmas decoration strobe effects for 2 months.

    I’ll drive into town and walk round the shops.

  3. MSG…are you sure we didn’t live on the same estate? Our creepy next door neighbour had a large collection of concrete gnomes in his front garden and spent the day watching porn (according to our opposite neighbour who could see straight in through his upstairs window).

    The neighbourhood kids once knocked on our door and offered to torch our car for the insurance. (We declined, although it was a mustard coloured allegro and could have done with torching.) Probably the same neighbourhood kids who broke in and stole a bucket of pennies and were then so thick that they repeated cycled past our house with it hanging from their handlebars. Duh!

    Oh and you’d always be served last at the estate pub, unless you were a born and bred estatee. By the time you’d waited 40 minutes for a warm pint you might as well have gone to the offy.

    Oh those were the days…

    So glad we moved up in the world (or up round the ring road) before we had kids. Though perhaps I should send them back there, just to make sure they don’t grow up to be too soft.

  4. Ahh – neighbourhood kids! A fond memory. Especially on Halloween. Air freshener sprayed through the letterbox just at toddler eyes height. Bagged up dog poo stuffed in our hedge. (I suppose at least they bothered to bag it up first – very rare in that region.) Screeching to a halt in their pimped-up boy racer wagon right up behind me as I’m reversing into a space in front of my own house (maybe they didn’t know we lived there? They’ve only been living across the road since before we’d arrived those years ago – and maybe they’ll back up this time? Nah – just look into their eyes. Don’t bother speaking or even sighing. Just drive round the block again and think calm thoughts. Thoughts like ‘We have to move soon or this street will DIE….’) We even had an ASBO crow that used to vandalise everyone’s windscreen wipers. And don’t get me started on the foxes pooing on the doorstep and on the children’s garden toys…….

    Ahh – suburban castles.

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