Posts Tagged ‘leighton buzzard’

Jennie dropped me off at Leighton Buzzard station and I resumed the walk. I joined the Grand Union Canal and walked along the tow path for a while. Round about now one of those weird, meaningless internet things happened. I twittered this photo

with the comment ‘Phwoar, nice bit of hedgelaying south of Leighton’. (Remember, you could be reading gems like this every five minutes, were you to follow me on Twitter.) My friend Martin was amused enough to retweet this with the comment ‘a bad case of bush envy!’, after which it was retweeted again by @hashpolitics, whose mission is ‘Aggregating news about USA politics in 140 chars’ – presumably seeing political significance in the word ‘bush’…


It was a sunny day and it was pleasant strolling along the canal. The countryside offered nice views, with Big Shed warehouses and giant factories shimmering beyond fields with placid cows. I liked this Anubis boat:

and the stretches of woodland:

The canal was busy, with the road, railway and River Ouzel bundled together in the same tract. At one point I could see and/or hear trains, cars, canoes, planes and bikes, all at the same time. It was like the transport hub of the world, but maybe everywhere is these days.

Under the A505 bridge, decorated with ghoulish looming graffiti, it occurred to me that I could squat down and become a troll, sending inflaming messages around the internet from my phone and generally causing mischief and self-perpetuating misery. On the other hand, I could try and spread tiny joys and semi-precious beauties…

To be continued

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Despite walking nearly 25 miles, I still hadn’t reached Leighton Buzzard, site of childhood holidays and source of my first Robert E. Howard Conan book (as described earlier). I had gone to sleep in the MK hotel to the sounds of drunken revelry turning nasty, closing-time shouting and what sounded like barking police dogs from seven floors below. No evidence remained in the empty square this sunny morning.

For the second week running, I enjoyed a solitary breakfast, and headed to the station – walking like the Tin Woodman in the aftermath of yesterday’s exertions.

The train took me back to Leighton Buzzard station, actually in Linslade. When we came here on holiday I would have extra pocket money, which I would use to buy various books and comics. I always seemed to find unexpected delights, an unexpected new Jack Kirby comic, for instance, so Leighton has always seemed like the source of abundant blessings. However, as I walked towards it, early impressions were of a run-down town, and I was resigned to the place of idyllic memories having become an unrecognisable Dystopia. For a moment, ‘the borders of life shrivelled and the lines of existence closed in’ as they did for Conan when in the grip of the ‘the unreasoning melancholy of the Cimmerian’

I walked up to WHSmiths, not really knowing what to expect or what, specifically, I was looking for. It was market day, and a stall outside sold graphic novels – a good omen, as if this was some special site for the fantastic, a ley line intersection of pulp imaginings.

Inside, on my patch of personal holy ground, I walked through the modern-day Smiths – dirty, down at heel and directionless (the shop that is). I looked at the fiction shelves, knowing of course that Robert E. Howard books were unlikely to be there for today’s 13-year-olds to find. But… I was wrong. Not only was there an REH book, but one I didn’t already have – The Haunter of the Ring, a collection of supernatural yarns.

Buoyed by this find, I strolled slowly around the sunny market square. The book, the fine day, the trader offering a cabbage and a cauli for one pound fifty, the two old Polish guys smoking on the steps of the Market Cross – all seemed like a reminder that, as Howard wrote (giving his barbarian hero a bipolar upswing), ‘Life was good and real and vibrant after all, not the dream of an idiot god’.

Soon it would be time to get the train back to MK, then home. For now I was glad that the place I remembered seemed in good spirits. Easier to let go of the past knowing that some of its places are carrying on by themselves in a good style.

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