I must have been 16. I remember being in some shoe shop in the Friary Centre in Guildford, absent-mindedly talking to myself, when a woman looked at me sharply. I hadn’t twigged that wandering around singing, or talking to yourself might be totally bonkers – it was just something I did.
It’s still something I do. Walking through Durham and Cardiff, and later London, I would write monologues, run through ideas, and sing (quietly). Walking lets you be anonymous, lets your mind roam around while your feet move on automatically. You’re sheltered, supported even by the people walking past, they provide walls for the little bubble you put yourself in while you let whatever’s in your head pour out (quietly).
I’ve been having real problems knuckling down and concentrating on writing my book idea out, probably because sitting down to do anything makes me think of exams, but more realistically because I have a horror of anything that doesn’t come naturally. And writing thousands upon thousands of words does not come naturally to me.
What has really helped is the walk from the bus stop to my house. It’s eerily still and utterly beautiful, and I feel safe walking through it. Switching off, then switching on my iPhone to record an idea has meant that I’ve kept the ideas that disappear as soon as I walk through the door. I’ve put last week’s story up top, but if you’d rather read it, the text is after the jump.
Every step I take I see something I want to share with you. A house that I’ve never looked at on my walk home has got its blinds open and they’ve got a red light bulb shining out of their bedroom. Why would anybody do that? I’m assuming they’re not prostitutes, so why would anybody do that?
Every step I take takes me further away from you and further home, but I’ve spent a long time in the hinterland of not really knowing where I am so it’s fine. A Geordie woman, clutching her phone to her ear as though it’s a life support, is chatting furiously to somebody who can only be her sister, in front of her, her overweight spaniel is paddling furiously, eyebrows furrowed, trying to remember how to put one foot in front of the other.
The Geordie woman is panicking about “some tiny little thing which she doesn’t really need to be worried about” and I walk past her as she tells this insult to someone who can only be her sister. The deceptively nice pub is quiet for once. Across the road for me I can see the sign that’s been up advertising a local party for too long. The weather is sort of damp, non-starter weather that makes you wonder whether we’ll even have seasons at all this year.
Whatever I’ve just drunk is cutting through my brain so that I’m seeing everything slightly sideways. A very young dad, one of those chaps who’s so thin that his trousers look as though they’re holding themselves up, is carrying his daughter, vivid in purple and a striped skirt, on his shoulders. She’s screaming with laughter and every time he shakes, it’s as though his trousers are moving of their own accord.
Every time I take a step I’m walking further away from you. I love it because it makes me forget, forget that I’m walking away from you, and walking towards something that I don’t understand. Walking towards home and the minute that I walk through the door, I will feel things that I don’t feel now. I’m free to feel whatever I do. I don’t miss you when I’m out here. I don’t miss anything.
I walk past the father and his little girl. “Hold me daddy,” she says imperiously. “I’m holding you, I’m holding you. I’ll never let you go,” he says. She smiles knowing this, and raises the creamy remnants of an ice cream sandwich up to her mouth. They start running, jingling and jangling, it goes with the sound; irritable rush of the trees in the park to my right. The more I hear the trees the more I start to panic. All around me I can see stillness. Unchanging buildings. And the minute I walk through that door I will feel afraid again.