diamond geezer

 Friday, February 14, 2020

My favourite walk, certainly the walk I take most often, is a stroll through the delightful backwaters of the East End. It begins in a broad open space in the ancient village of Bow, close to the former boundary of Essex. It wends its way south past all manner of intriguing wayside features. And it ends amid a wide range of food and beverage opportunities, providing welcome sustenance after an exhilarating trek.

Come join me on my favourite walk, which is the dozen steps from my laptop to my kitchen.

Reasons for setting out on my favourite walk are many and varied, but invariably involve the need to relocate to perform tasks elsewhere. I rise slowly from my chair, nudging the castors gently backwards, and take in the full sweep of my surroundings. A blank rectangular screen faces me from the far corner. Daffodils gently wilt in a container on a low shelf. The adjacent seating area has space for three, maybe four at a push.

The winter sun reflects off the brick wall opposite. Somewhere in the distance a tall crane dominates what will one day be a stack of flats. The local squirrel no longer visits to bury nuts in tubs as frequently as he once did. On a good day some kind of finch might alight on the rail above the rosebush, on a bad day a magpie, but on most days no birds at all. It's good to be heading off again.

Behind me the gateway to the upcoming walk stands open. I turn to face the handle, oblivious to conditions on the far side of the wooden door which so rarely sees the light of day. By the time I'm ready to progress forwards I've twisted through a full two hundred and seventy degrees, any swifter rotation outlawed by resistant surfaces and a loose litter bin.

This is sometimes the point at which I pick up my mug, transportation of which is an excellent reason to set out on the upcoming stroll. Then suddenly the doorway is before me and the game is afoot. I find no need to duck, the overhead bar being no obstruction for someone of my height. I always remember to mind my step, however, one of the screws holding down the carpet being fractionally higher than the metal strip securing it.

The passageway ahead is dark, there being no natural light at any point along this magnolia tunnel. But that's fine, I know my way, indeed I've trodden this path so often my progress is instinctive. It is as soft underfoot as it always is. The floorboards creak ominously as I step through, and I very much hope those below are not being repeatedly aggravated by my passage.

Coming up almost immediately on the left is the entrance to the place of rest where a large proportion of my overnight hours are spent. I shall not be deviating on this occasion, but sometimes my journey bears off here instead, especially after dark. Sometimes I like to think of all the historical figures that have passed this way. Most of the time I move on before the melancholy strikes.

The globe dangling from above provides no light, and any traveller in these parts must be now prepared for it to get darker still. A bend in the passageway cuts off whatever stray illumination might otherwise have slipped through, and also provides an obstruction which can impact the unwary foot. Any potential vibration through the walls is now impossible to miss. I have not yet met my new neighbours, but I do know their washing machine runs considerably more frequently than was previously the case.

The bend's outer corner provides space for storage and display. Here we find a lump of lava from Eyjafjallajökull, two fluffy dice, Fred Dibnah's calculator and a complimentary matchbox from Amsterdam. Here too is a bowl of old keys, whose collective provenance is now mostly lost to history. Three briefcases have been stashed beneath the occasional table, left over from a long forgotten era when handheld storage was a daily essential. Passers-by usually comment on the cartographic piles, not that passers-by often pass.

Now look up. A plastic box has been attached to the ceiling, poised to howl into action should carbon particles ever be detected in abundance. A second box can be seen barely two metres further along the trail, its presence required by strict interpretation of overly prescriptive regulation, whereas in fact it simply doubles the chance of a plaintive low-battery beep commencing in the early hours of the morning.

And yet the surfaces of this passageway remain otherwise ominously featureless. Leasehold terms and conditions require an overlord's permission before any puncture can be made, hence my grandmother's favourite Beech Glade painting continues to gather dust on a side table. The only protruding fixture is a light fitting, sans lamp, never fully wired by any subsequent electrician. The all-pervading gloom continues.

Suddenly the end of the journey is in sight! How welcome the portal seems after such a lengthy trek. But first a four-way junction must be negotiated, indeed its tempting possibilities must be entirely ignored. To the left lie such delights as a stepladder, fresh changes of underwear and several spare SCART cables. To the right are the nearest non-public conveniences, a stack of trainers and exit to the wider world. But these are destinations for another time.

Instead it's time to draw this perfect perambulation to a close. Ahead are the refreshment options long promised, perhaps a mug of tea, possibly a chilled lager from the fridge or maybe a glass of water fresh from the tap. Alternatively it may be time to slip that pizza into the oven, or take the vegetables off the boil, or simply nab a KitKat from the corner cupboard. Whichever option awaits, take a deep breath, flick the left-hand light switch and step inside.

Another favourite walk is at an end. Now all that remains is to undertake the entire safari in reverse, perhaps even with the intention of sitting down and writing about the experience, ideally with a steaming brew in hand.

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