Today’s walking was mainly done in a city I once knew so well. The city I lived and worked in for twenty odd years, the city where,as a child, I spent time with Mum and Dad, a city I still think of as a home.
This time I was there with a new friend who was unfamiliar with the city and it was my great pleasure to share with her my favourite haunts. I proudly showed off the wonderful landmarks, and enjoyed her reaction to the buildings, the history and the people all around us.
It was somewhat surprising to me to find so many changes have been made. I knew about the regeneration of the centre, the new shops and galleries but here there were some changes I hadn’t noticed in my previous visits. We walked in an enormous circle, almost 25,000 steps or 10 miles of pavement passed below our feet, stopping here and there we took photographs and ate good food while chatting with friends old and new.
The area that astonished me was one I once walked through often. Below the might of a cathedral, the warehouses lining the streets had once buzzed with cargo, with workers and the noise of commerce. This had been on my way home when I was a student I would save the bus fare and walk from college to our shared house. Back then the city was in decline, the docks beginning to close, the warehouses were shadows of their former selves.Now, at first glance they seem much the same. There are no broken windows any more and although many are unlit, through some windows there are clues that there maybe homes within. From outside they mostly look neglected and unloved.
We are guided by a friend who knows this place and soon we come across a painted wooden doorway. Entering I am amazed at what is within. Colour hits the eye, bright walls and fake green grass surround tables and chairs in the sunshine. Booths made from bamboo line one wall and the music lifts our spirits. We have great food, we have cocktails and we feel as if we have found another world. This is not the only surprise this afternoon for behind many of these imposing, somewhat sad structures there is a vibrancy and energy I would never have dreamt of.
Fed and watered we begin our way back towards the station and home. As we walk the many, many steps of the day, we are drawn to sculptures and art everywhere. The streets seem alive with colour and as we leave the warehouses and rejoin the shops there are thousands of people all around us, each living their lives in the city. Going home, shopping, out for fun, people are everywhere and it feels good to be a part of this urban life.
Later, on the train heading back to the hills we are chatting about our day. Neither of us noticed how far we had walked, instead we were buoyed by the sunshine and so much to see. Tired but happy we go our separate ways home.
In the past whenever I travelled home by train I have always either been picked up at the station or hailed a taxi home. Often the almost a mile climb up the hill from the train has been too much to ask after a day out. Today I am much cheered as I am able to walk it with ease. It would seem another fifteen hundred or so steps is a breeze as I walk through the town that is now my home. Here there are also people out and about on a Saturday night, in a small town in the countryside. I feel so lucky to have roots in two very different but beautiful places.