My auntie Alice was brought up on what they called ‘the old row’ on Churchfield Lane in Glass Houghton.
She liked to tell the story about one of her neighbour’s sons. On a sunny Sunday afternoon a long time ago, the kids in her street were kicking a can up and down the road and complaining they had nothing else to do.
Someone suggested they go for a walk. The neighbour’s son pondered for a moment and then said: “What’s the point in going for a walk when you have only to come back again?”
I was reminded of this story last week when we went to Scarborough for the day to celebrate Heather’s birthday.
We called for a knickerbocker glory in the Harbour Bar and then I suggested we have a walk. Our Eddie said: “Where to?” I said: “Nowhere, just a walk.” We set off up toward the North Bay. There was a bit of a sea fret and you know what it’s like when there’s a sea fret at Scarborough, everything goes quiet doesn’t it?
It felt like we were passing through a pocket of silence. I was thoroughly enjoying the moment, not having to be anywhere or worrying about the time, but halfway up to Peasholm Park Edward said: “Does this road ever end? I can’t see anything and I don’t know where I’m going.”
I have this idea there is pleasure to be taken from walking itself, you don’t have to be going to see anybody, but you always bump into somebody you know, especially at the seaside.
Sure enough we did bump into some friends and stood chatting. It was a lovely 20 minutes and just after that I got talking to a woman I didn’t know as we admired a statue of an old man sitting on a bench looking out to sea.
That’s another thing I like doing, having chance meetings along the way with someone who you haven’t seen for ages or even someone you have never met before and then chewing the fat.
I don’t think we do enough of that these days. Everybody seems to be going somewhere and when you stop to pass the time of day, they always seem to say: “I must dash I’ve got a meeting/train to catch/shopping to do/ a man to see about a dog.”
Why can’t we be satisfied just being where we are, rather than where we want to be or dashing off to the next thrill. Doesn’t anybody enjoy a journey anymore? Don’t get me started on the things you overhear when people talk loudly on their mobile phone on train journeys. The following is a transcript of something I heard a traveller say when I was on my way home from work recently:
“The train’s just leaving Leeds now, we’ll be in Castleford in about 17 minutes. Ok, see you soon.”
This man then put his phone back on the table in front of him. At Woodlesford station he picked it up again.
“Hello, I’m just letting you know that we’re in Woodlesford and we’re on time.”
As the train pulled into Cas’ the man picked up his phone again. “I’m here now, where are you?” Through the window I saw a woman talking to her mobile phone. The man and woman waved to one another and carried on talking to each other on their phones right up to the point where they were actually standing next to one another.
This man had spent the whole journey sitting opposite me without once trying to make eye contact or engage in conversation with anyone apart from his phone. I managed to smile at him once as he looked up, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Do you think we are forgetting to take time to enjoy anything apart from getting to the next destination? It will be a shame if this is true, because I think a smile for a stranger, talking to somebody you hardly know or just taking time to do nothing much more than have a look around and enjoy a moment are lovely things to do.
Back in Scarborough, we finished our walk at the park and had a game on the putting green, then we found a pub that brews its own beer and after that a fish shop, where we sat outside with little wooden forks to eat some of the best fish and chips we’ve had in ages.
I think lovely things can happen without any planning when you just say let’s go for a walk.