Friday night we arrived at our friend Sharon’s house in Warwick. Weary and overwrought, we enjoyed being welcomed with good food and doggy antics. I also unwound with a bottle of beer, apparently brewed by the bloke who played Rocky in Boon. (I liked this lager/ale hybrid and will seek out beers brewed by TV stars in future. I’m sure Arthur Mullard could construct a nice porter.)
A further luxury, having walked quite far from my home, was to be able to commence a leg first thing, without needing a long journey to get to the start. However rather than set out immediately, I attended an early Mass at the church next door (my favourite kind – no music, and hardly any people to ‘share a sign of peace’ (eg embarrassed handshake) with.) Surprisingly, given recent online conversations about the nature of homecoming, one of the readings was the Prodigal Son.
I walked along a main road from Warwick to Leamington Spa. A daffodil on the tarmac-rivered pavement signalled a good start to a spring walk.
Sunshine was welcome after months shrouded in cloud. In the Royal Priors shopping centre I bought tea, glimpsing a man drawing a huge mind-map in an A4 journal.
I dropped down to the Grand Union Canal, where I would spend most of the morning. I walked out past estates which seemed to have been built around ancient groves, saw sunlight on blossom. After a while the dog walkers, runners and cyclists thinned out and I was in countryside, with mostly boats for company.
In a small clearing in the canalside wood, I found a firepit surrounded by benches made from logs and balks of timber, a DIY social area. It even had a doormat – a kind of red carpet for distinguished guests.
And a swing, which enabled me to make this pixel-perfect re-enactment of Fragonard’s The Swing:
I crossed the Fosse Way and walked some more canal, until it was time to turn off and head south on to the Centenary Way.
Random thoughts in a difficult time: making journeys is a creative act; countless tiny actions no-one will see or know, all ephemeral, lost; drinking around a fire in a dark wood, sparks flickering upwards; ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’
The wind was getting up, sky now gray – getting a ragged, blown-apart feeling. Reached a farm, where paths and railways met. Not sure who I would be in the Prodigal Son story; the lost son, watching the pigs eating husks (or the less-appetising-sounding ‘pods’), waiting to come to his senses and return from the dead; or the good son, doing the right things with no satisfying results, unaware of the bounty he has as of right. Or perhaps some off-stage character, dealing with the practicalities of finding robes and roasting a calf.
Another mile or so and I was in Harbury, an attractive village. Finished up in the Crown Inn, drinking a pint of Copper Dragon, waiting for Jennie and Sharon to appear with the support vehicle (now dubbable as the 50-mobile) and whisk me away…
Post-walk research tells me that an ichthyosaurus was found in Harbury once, stone image of its bones 40 feet beneath the earth, now in the Natural History Museum. A poet called Richard Jago used to be the vicar, ‘remembered for his poem Edge-hill, or, the rural prospect delineated and moralised (1767)’. I hope to get as far as Edge Hill next time, which I am sure I will delineate and perhaps even moralise about.