‘Thursday’s child has far to go’, and (perhaps because I was indeed born on that day) so I have, with my nightly dreams of lostness, frequent work-related wanderings and this journey. One thing that puts me into pedestrian mode quite often is the fact that I don’t drive. Like the Passenger in the Iggy Pop song, I ride and I ride and ‘see the city’s ripped backsides’, always driven by others. But often I walk, and see… all kinds of things. This blog recounts some of them, and is the most fulfilling writing I’ve done for a long time. A month between big walks and posts feels like too long, so maybe I’ll post concerning other walks, sidetrips, interludes; after all, I’m always travelling towards 50 even if I’m not headed homewards.
Thursday’s child is fascinated by distance. The blue hills in paintings, a special blue that Rebecca Solnit (in A Field Guide to Getting Lost) calls ‘the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not.’ Even obviously false distances, like the tummocky hills in the MGM Wizard of Oz set, create a pang, a wish to be there, not here. To enter the ‘loveliest garden you ever saw’ seen by Alice through a tiny door – heartbreaking when unreachable and disappointing once reached. Perhaps why Captain Beefheart sings ‘The black paper between a mirror | Breaks my heart that I can’t go’
Thursday’s child walks in marginal places. 14, inspired by readings of J.G.Ballard from Portslade library (to be part of this route, stay tuned), walking alongside the A27 towards Shoreham flyover… noting the discarded cans, bottles, wrappers, smokers’ requisites as the slipstream of an endless high-speed party. Sitting between the concrete pillars of the flyover doing my drawing homework
Thursday’s child looks around and notices things. The photocopied license beside a fruit machine on Preston station, in the name of ‘Sceptre Leisure Solutions’. But whose ‘sceptre’ – some Leisure King, looking like a polyestered, debased Ghost of Christmas Present? ‘Solutions’ as in problems solved (‘Let’s make sure commuters can gamble between connections’)? Or solutions as in things dissolved (particles of solid leisure diluted until all that’s left is this feebly flickering bandit) or the dissolving medium, ‘leisure’ as the Universal Solvent, unable not to destroy its own containers
Thursday’s child is lost in time, baffled. In Victoria Station… 6 years old, walking through it with my dad, on the way to see dinosaurs and lightning in museums… later, hot chestnuts burning through the paper bag bought outside Foyles, peeking at Conan the Conqueror… walking to Heaven to see Throbbing Gristle, Dec 23, 1980… now some years later drinking traditional ale in a bar fabricated in a mezzanine, up amongst the roof girders, festooned with stalactites of dust and grease: like drinking in the lighting rig of a theatre, somehow too high up, not quite a real place as it wasn’t here before: haunting my own life
Thursday’s child retraces his steps. The footpath followed hundreds of times to school (keeping bus money to spend on comics, walking 40 minutes to meet Stav and Des beneath the fire escape, crossing the golf course with no concession to distant golfers teeing off) was a ‘drove road’ moving livestock over the centuries, now skirts the back of a Sainsburys superstore, graffiti gestures covering wildlife interpretation signs. New spaces overwrite the old, create new margins, but still a genius loci might emerge, still fossil thunderbolts (‘lightning stones’ kept as amulets by shepherds) appear from the still chalk soil
Thursday – finishing a course near Chorley – ‘College Governance’, perhaps as far removed as it is possible to be from the word of ‘Anarcho-Absurdists, Revolutionary Sybarites, Alchemical Hazardistas and Urban Arcadians’ alluded to in The Flâneur and similar text/places I am haunting – walking to town through a cell of preserved countryside, shoes and pinstripe trousers getting muddy, navigating roundabouts and ringroads until playtime is finished and I head for the steeples and stations of the centre.