I'm thinking about walks today....as you do on an early summers day, staring out of the office window at the distant Surrey hills shrouded in warm, hazy sunshine.
Actually, it's not my fault - We have a babysitter tonight for Caz's birthday. I had a collection of exciting plans stuffed up my sleeve, but rather than suggest we go to see Russell Crowe in Robin Hood I thought I would leave it to her to come to the same conclusion! She stopped the world spinning though by saying she would like to go for a walk. A walk? No CGI, no surround sound, no credits, no popcorn. A walk, hand in hand, talking, listening, work, the kids, friends lives we ought to sort out, putting the world to rights, you remember how it works, yeah, me too......even feelings, honesty, perhaps some kissing...maybe we're back to my agenda again!
So, in preparation for my evening stepping out with a beautiful older woman, here are my top 5 walks. As with any top 5, there are truely great walks that don't quite make the cut. My choice is entirely arbitary & personal. No room then for Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, nor Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. Bill Hybels 'Just Walk across the room' gets an honourable mention alongside the lyrical magic of 'Walking in Memphis' or the Bangles 'Walk like an Egyptian'.
1/ Northampton town centre circa August 1990.
Not featuring regularly in beauty spot articles, a late night walk through the empty streets of Northampton was for me a pivotal moment. Having just returned from a couple of months away around the world with a choir, Caz came to meet me at our final concert. This story is set in the days before Sat Nav, & Caz had inexplicably parked her car at least an hours walk away. None of this mattered. This was the classic love walk, I'm almost sure Billy Ocean songs were playing in the air around us. It was one of those long nights where the place didn't matter, nor did the pace. As we caught up to date we both knew that we would spend the rest of our lives together - it was THE night where we knew there was no turning back. Northampton will always be number 1 for that reason.
2/ 9 Paulden Avenune, Waterhead, Oldham, 1997
There is nothing to compare to this kind of walk & it involved 2 people coming in different directions. I was walking up the hill from Oldham Mumps station, arriving home from the office in Manchester. 1 year old Noah was running across the lounge to the front door, only having eyes for one person as my key turned in the door.....'Daddy's home!' was the shout, & I would be knocked off my feet with snot wiped down my suit. Every day that summer, until he discovered Toy Story & forgot all about me. Happy days, when life was simple & the important things mattered!
3/ Pot's & Pans
High up in the Saddleworth hills, up above the town of Oldham, you will find my perfect safe place. These strange shaped rocky outcrops, fashioned unseen by ancient glaciers also bear my footprints. These rocks have hidden me from the harsh winds that blow, the breeze carrying away my prayers & cries at times. These views have stirred my heart, inspired my ideas, raised my spirits. These paths have been my meandering thoughts as I have sometimes trudged, sometimes run,often just sat. Pot's & Pans, I've yet to replace you down south.
4/ Lyme Regis
The prom at Lyme Regis in the August evening Sunshine is just about the perfect English seaside walk. The unspoiled seaside town, the chippy, the slot machines, the pebbles, the salt tang in the air & the threat of a shower. Summer nights don't get better than this.
5/ St Pauls to Victoria
The magical history tour, London at her finest, every era, great buildings, streets packed with people to watch if you slow down & go against the flow. From the cathedral, down Ludgate Hill, the ghost of the old city still evident if you look for it. Across into Fleet Street, no longer home to the press but brooding magnificently, the scent of the river if the wind blows right. Past the Law Courts & on into the Strand. A diversion up into Covent Garden for a drink, or continuing down to Trafalgar Square for the National Portrait Gallery & a salute to Nelson.
For the Royalists....carry on down the Mall for your Daily Mail moment at the Palace. For the rest of us, a left turn down Whitehall, past Downing Street, the place of history in the making only last week. More salutes to Cromwell, Churchill et al outside the Palace of Westminster, then across Parliament Square to Victoria Street. There's still time to marvel at Westminster Abbey, further down to the hidden gem that is Westminster Cathedral, then finally, into Victoria Station for a train home.
Why not slow down & take a walk with your eyes & ears open this week?