Although I don’t go in for New Year resolutions, I have decided to do do more local walking in between the main legs of the trip, which will tend to be less frequent as the start-points get more distant. My first idea is to walk to Liverpool along the Northern Line train route, hiking station to station (which suggests a Bowie soundtrack: ‘Got to keep searching/and searching/oh what will I be believing/and who will connect me with love?’)
There being no time like the present, I ventured out from my front door at 6.30am on January 1st, to walk from Ormskirk to Aughton Park stations.
It was quiet after the midnight firework cannonades and party laughter of a few hours ago. A heavy frost turned objects such as cars into white sculptures of themselves. I crossed the park and walked up to the town centre, passing a couple returning from a party. With their hoodies and quiet talk they made me think of monks on the night stair. Rags of pre-Christmas snow still occupied odd corners, like the remnants of the old decade overlooked in the frantic Cava-fueled cleanup.
The clock tower was surrounded by broken bottles, the compass set in the pavement glistening with glass as well as frost. Ormskirk’s municipal time- and space-equipment had obviously been the site of revelry…
I had a fantasy of stumbling on to the last moments of a party – in Burscough Street I heard music and thought this was coming true, but it was just the muzak of the covered shopping alley, playing cheerily to an absent audience: Prokofiev’s Troika with a calypso beat.
I reached the station. No trains were scheduled until 8.20, removing the temptation to do this walk backwards from Liverpool. I took pictures, under the gaze of the CCTV cameras, vaguely anxious even at this unpeopled hour that someone would object to my photography. Many things have become forbidden or compulsory in the years running up to this new one; frontiers shift and multiply; our bodies and the spaces they move through become contested and unprotected image-taking seems to be on the forbidden list. Can I mix my own data-spoor with a public park? Or was pulling these shapes into my camera some form of transgression?
I walked on, replaying my normal walk back from work, an unwise man going home by a different route. The first bit of terra incognita was a right-of-way alley alongside the railway line.
Here I found the Significant Object of this walk: yards and yards of unspooled videotape, lying in the frost. I traced it to its source and found, of all things, Fantasia: a film that is nearly three-score-and-ten years of age, that I saw over 40 years ago, and that has been through numerous restorations and losses of original elements. Now this particular copy decays into the frozen verge, a magnetic version of Rite of Spring slowly sacrificing itself into the brittle grass, the servants of the Sorceror’s Apprentice coming to rest in the roots.
Back on roads, Black Moss and Long Lanes, I walked around the outskirts of Ormskirk and into Aughton, cold fields to my left.
Birds began to sing. There was a Subway delivery van outside the Baptist chapel. A young woman was dropped off at a house. I walked through a faint cloud of her perfume.
Unexpectedly, I reached Aughton Park station. Someone had tweeted me an excerpt from a poem: later found to be ‘The Gate of the Year’: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”