CC Issue 48 / Reflections / Travel / Leisure

Strolling

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I have previously written about my appreciation of JB Priestly’s beautiful little book ‘Delight,’ and given my own offering to the collective box of delights.

I thought I would add to that today. Having had our first baby since the last Collective release, Daisy Annabel, obviously my first thought went to her. After all, she is a delightful ragtag bundle of pooing, vomiting, smiling, gargling joy.

However, I can already hear the collective groans of every reader not genetically linked to my three month old daughter. For one of life’s immutable certainties is that no-one else can or will share the delight of a parent for their wailing disturber-of-the-peace.

So no more talk of Daisy. Well, at least not directly. As with all babies, there is one thing Daisy does much of- crying; and one thing she does rather little of- sleeping. As a result much of my time over recent months has been consumed with numerous strolls around Finsbury Park, Daisy in arms (or pram), desperately trying to abate the former and induce the latter.

On the one hand these strolls had the primary objective of getting my daughter to sleep. However, there has also been a delightful pointlessness about them. There was no A to B, just strolling.

And what I have found is that there is great delight to be found in just going for a stroll. As my eyes have been set free from my iPhone and feet released from the demands of a destination, I have found myself getting to know my little corner of London (Finsbury Park) in a wonderful new way.

In the first instance, I am now a front row spectator of early morning life in Wray Cresent Park at the end of the road. As I stroll with a coffee in one hand and the pram in the other, I urge on the runner going round and round the dew- covered field at 7:30am, who has a rather different perspective on the use of Sunday mornings from the young man in jeans and a t-shirt who leans back on the bench and takes out the first cigarette of the day. Intermittent dog-walkers stride by, lead in one hand, trying to get the job done before getting back for breakfast. Later in the day football or cricket teams battle it out for local glory, and I might take a short break from my stroll to see the varying skill and invariable drama unfold.

There have been times when I have been working that it feels like the seasons are passing me by. I enter a centrally heated, artificially lit hospital at 8am and leave it at 6pm. For all I know a hurricane could have been and gone and I’d be none the wiser. But there’s no escaping the elements on a stroll. Since July I have been a privileged spectator of both a simmering sun bringing everyone out to the Italian ice cream parlour on Stroud Green road, and gusting winds blow the reddening autumnal leaves down Tollington Park Road. Rather less gratefully, sharp fierce showers have had me clinging gratefully to a rather flimsy and inept umbrella- wet, cold, a bit fed up but face to face with that moment.

Then as I stroll along, come wind, rain or shine, I can encounter the hidden treasures that would otherwise have entirely passed me by. Last week I met my first hedge cut into an elephant, and I am still marvelling at how that talented gardener pulled that off. I don’t have to walk long before I pass a house that looks like it has come straight from Grand Designs, and the bizarre tree/wall hybrid seemed to perfectly capture the industrial/nature interface seen on an abandoned railway line. And can anyone match my bizarre door?! (all pictured)

I’m not a patient man by temperament. I tend to rush from A to B. And for that reason I am all the more grateful for my crying, refusing-to-sleep little daughter. She has dragged me back to the delight of strolling, and re-introduced me to the world on my doorstep. Thank you Daisy.

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