Of course you should have been tipped out of your hammock, dreaming in that brief but welcome sunshine of early spring. Tipped out to suffer minor abrasions and some bruising; although we can never be quite sure to what degree you will wake up. What sort of waking up could we hope for? Even at your great age! The apprentices had gone wild, running amok. In the past it would have been safe to assume their gender/sexual identity – young men longing for a sight of a young woman – but let’s not make any assumptions in that direction. Let us simply assume the rising sap of spring, the spring in the step of those young apprentices, let loose; what were the authorities thinking of, taking their eye off them, indulging in lazy lunches with bottles of strong red wine that appeared as if my magic amidst the mounds of succulent dishes on the increasingly stained white table cloth. A slurring of words, coarser humour, raucous laughter leading to amorous fondlings or simply sleep.
There we were, walking with little thought of direction or destination and there’s a point when the legs are tired after many miles, perhaps the feet are sore, and hunger begins to gnaw at the belly. My thoughts are worn thin and few coins sit in my pocket. Is that the junction of paths where I espy a tantalising beauty? Perhaps there will be no going back. Already the myriad paths behind me are shifting, bending their way to a new tune, new possibilities, forcing a future that I didn’t know I wanted. A glimpse of beauty has me by the nose. Sweetness beckons me into the dance to the tune of the dazzling, rippling of the stream.
But my steps are clumsy and unwelcome as I lurch across the green sward. I would grab but she’s gone on the lightest, fleetest of feet. My tiredness forgotten as I give chase – there is no chance that she’ll get away, evade the passions that suddenly command me; leave me no choice.
I must enter the trap or die in the effort. The waters that close over my head are sweet and welcome.
Or I could just walk away. Sorry, darling, I’ve got an urgent appointment. And I will jump into my BMW something-or-other and roar away, tyres squealing, back wheels drifting out in the loose gravel.
Or I could just walk away. After all, it’s where we started: walking. This fact of walking I was reminded of by the piece, in last Saturday’s (31.03.12) Guardian Review, by Will Self. He’s become a spokesman for walking, even quoting Rebecca Solnit who we discovered and valued several years ago. Of course, we were also reminded of our shared history of walking by the film Patience (after Sebald) which we both mentioned on this scroll recently. How far does the average European (let alone North American) walk these days? I mean in the course of their day-to-day life. We’ve been busy creating lives that exclude the possibility. Will Self mentions that a hundred years ago 90% of Londoners walked their journeys if they were less than six miles. It’s a great loss.