Saying so long to September on a stroll through Wivenhoe Woods.
Sunset seen over Rowhedge on the opposite bank of the River Colne last night. Taken on my evening riverside walk in Wivenhoe, Essex.
The reflective moon playing coy on last night’s walk west along the river Colne in Wivenhoe, Essex.
As the days draw longer, I enjoy my evening walk more. On Monday I strolled along the edge of Cymbeline Meadows towards the sunset, to catch sight of the moon, waxing crescent as it rose. I respect the older trees; here long before me, here long after me, their constancy reassures me.
On what was then the hottest day of the year, Easter Saturday, I was in Paris. And I was wondering why. There were travel advisories as a result of the heat generated by both the weather and a renewed vigour to the gilets jaunes protests. Their feelings of economic injustice had been fuelled by flash-funding fury following the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris the previous week.
With this in mind, I had chosen to stay at a hotel outside the city and to take a bus into the city centre. I was going to meet friends at Rue Saint Maur for the Atelier des Lumières Van Gogh Starry Night projection, and we had timed tickets for the late afternoon. The bus was stopped twice by police; the driver questioned, the vehicle checked. After an hour’s journey, we came to a halt at Opera.
I was ready to walk, having no intention of using the Metro; which I dislike. What I wanted was a calm route through Paris (I know, right? I also want to win a major cash lottery prize); away from building injury porn, running battles between police and protestors, and tribes of tourists. So I walked through business districts, closed for the Easter weekend, as endless streams of police vehicles drove past.
To the soundtrack of sirens, I then walked via Les Halles, through the Marais and on to Square Maurice Gardette, where I found a cafe in the shade and took a late lunch. I drank a large carafe of mint lemonade and reflected that walking is always the answer, whatever the question. I met my friends and we went to the novel, overcrowded, film show.
Afterwards, we walked on together up through Belleville towards Buttes Chaumont, punctuated by my stopping to take pictures of walls. We sat, as guests, to take in hazy, panoramic views of the city from a private hilltop garden near community vineyards while drinking ice-cold water provided by our bemused (we were strangers to him) host.
After we’d eaten well, and cheaply, at a packed Le P’tit Resto in the 20th to the sound of Da Capo Duo, I was offered a lift back to my hotel. The roads were clear, the drive was smooth. I arrived feeling content at a day well spent as I realised that I’d enjoyed a day in a Paris with its people quite different to any before. And I was no longer wondering why.
Last night, I left work with a colleague – we both walk to work and when we work together our paths cross awhile. We chatted about Spring – it was a mild evening for January and the birdsong was loud, there was an air of hope. As we do, we went our separate ways just outside the Roman walls marking the boundary of old Colchester. As he headed due south, up Balkerne Hill, I headed due north to cross the River Colne at the foot of North Hill. I stood on North Bridge and took this view as it took me. The warmth of home reflected on the river as I reflected on similarities with Hopper and Van Eyck and the intimacy of painted detail. Lighter nights are coming on, but real home comfort is now.
Walking to work along the River Colne in the first frost of this winter, with the ghost of the moon and a reflective swan.
This is a pedestrian story. Long ago, but not so far away, I went to live on Rhodes. I am a walker; not a hiker, not a rambler – a walker. I like it. It serves me well. The locals viewed my love of walking with curiosity; it was not within the realm of anyone’s experience to choose to walk. My behavior was passed-off as English eccentricity, which was fine. However, despite this ‘acceptance’, attempts were still made to change my mind.
On one memorable, quite typical, occasion, I set out for the coast to see how far I could go before nightfall. It was an autumnal Sunday and the weather was perfect for a walk; warm sunshine, cool breeze and clear air. I had only been on the road for ten minutes when my landlord’s car pulled up alongside and I was offered a lift.
‘Where are you going?’
‘For a walk.’
‘No, where are you going?’
‘For a walk.’
Five minutes later, I was able to start moving again, but the car motored next to me for a further five ‘in case I changed my mind’.
Now, I walk here and others choose to do the same. There are sponsored walks and runs. On medical advice, people walk up and down the waterfront at the nearly-new marina development. Dog-walking brings yet others out. This has seen a growth in sales of specialist clothing; many feel unable to take to the roads of Rhodes without the full kit. At one charity fundraiser, many of the participants were in outfits so new, they still had the price tags attached. They want to look the part. They want to be seen to have ‘changed their mind’.
People forget how to walk. It’s true. They can do the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other thing, but put them out in public and there’s no pathway code. This much is clear in the summer, when thousands of visitors are disgorged from planes and ships onto the streets. Far from their cars, in the heat of the sun, they forget (if, indeed, they ever knew) that they are in a living, working town and they wander. They wander everywhere. They wander off. Stop/start/left/right/back/forth. Walking with purpose becomes a slalom course. As a resident, you’re often invisible. I am at once irritated, frustrated and exasperated. Yet, I smile.
Why? You may ask. Because this experience, wandering on Rhodes, just might ‘change their minds’ when they return home and help them see that ‘for a walk’ is both a purpose and a destination.