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I like a walk to clear my head. Some of my knottiest writing problems have been solved by the simple act of tugging on my boots and disappearing down the road and into the woods. There have also been dishwasher revelations and laundry epiphanies. The thing about writing is the stuff never stops, it never leaves your head. Your stories skulk and prowl and lurk and then jump out on you when you are least expecting it. At the supermarket checkout for instance where you have to hold up the queue with a garbled explanation “I just have to write this down.” before you fumble in your handbag for one of the notebooks and two of the pens (the first one never works!)

Yesterday I left it until late in the afternoon before I took my walk. I nearly didn’t. I sometimes have days when I am reluctant to leave the building. I can go into the garden but, on those odd days, the idea of people and streets is intimidating. These are the days when I most need the walk and yesterday I dragged myself. Three times I headed to the door and thought ‘No, it’s getting dark’  and then once again ‘No. I need to start the tea.’ and finally ‘Get out or else’ which did the trick.

Off I trotted. I have a fitbit which logs my steps and I like it because it is interesting how far you walk in a day, even on the days when you don’t officially, ‘go for a walk’. I try to manage one big circular walk a week and by that I mean heading off up the canal to Bradford on Avon, sometimes further on to Avoncliff. I have arthritis in my knees and so I head off looking like Ranulph Fiennes with my Nordic poles, rattling with Paracetamol. This is an official ‘arthritis management’ scheme taught to me by the lovely lady in Orthopaedics; it is called the 3Ps system: Pace, Poles, Paracetamol. It works, have to admit.

Yesterday I diTown 39dn’t take the poles as I was only venturing out on a short expedition. I thought I might head off to Biss Meadows and do some kind of circular walk. It is not the best place to walk as the paths have a tendency to lead either to the rear boundary of the housing estate or other less picturesque dead ends. During the summer months there was one dead end which revealed a tent and someone’s neat camp tucked into the cover of the trees at the edge of the river. Few people glimpsed this hideaway. No one took their dogs up the bare dirt path to the bridge, preferring instead the proper, landscaped, gravel path. The bridge doesn’t really lead anywhere once you reach it, it heads out over the field towards the big A road and is not really much of a walk. I turned back of course and that’s when I saw the small camp. They were there all summer, clearly living in the tent. Yesterday there was simply a bare patch on  the ground where the tent had killed off the grass. It will cover over again when the spring arrives. I wonder who they were and where they went?

The paths are laid out with edging and gravel here but, as stated, they don’t go anywhere. There is no circular route or plan, you have to back track. Yesterday for instance, I attempted to cross the open grass and found that it was a Tolkienesque bog and the ghostly face looking up at me from the shining quagmire was my own. I dodged and splodged my way across and garnered several disapproving looks from the dog walkers. That is one of the oddities of the dogwalkers around these parts. They don’t understand why you are walking. They stand sentinel as their pooch whizzes about after a whiff of squirrel, a musk of cat, and they look at you with much the same regard as a nightclub bouncer looking at your trainers. I have also found that dogs don’t care for the Nordic poles. I’ve menaced two spaniels and a beagle in recent weeks with the owner rushing to ‘rescue’ the dog from the weird four legged woman. Where’s your dog you big stick insect? You do not have a dog? Why are you out here then? You’re ‘just walking’? Isn’t there a byelaw against that? Are you a terrorist?

I was there to look at the rushing river of course, twisting its way past Tesco. I was here to spot the huge flock of magpies winging their way through the trees. I lost count after fourteen and began to wonder how the rhyme works, seven for a secret, yes, but what are eight for? It was quite fun to trudge along the path and make up the rest. Eight for a journey, Nine for a rest. Ten for a teacup, eleven for a vest? Hm, could do with a vest, it was quite nippy yesterday. No. Something else rhymey but better. Erm. Eleven for a quest. Ha. Twelve for a…twelve for a…?  Your mind wanders with your feet and takes flight with the magpies. Twelve for a haunting, thirteen for? Oh heck we’re back to vest again.

I give up on the magpies for now and hurry off to worry a border terrier.

 

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‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge

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