Not being superstitious, I haven’t just played through my head the conversations about irony – as in “he wrote that, and then that happened” – that would ensue if, you know, I, um, over the next few days. But I have enjoyed myself rather a lot lately, and I did write that, so … I think if you don’t mind I’ll just describe the morning walk I take most mornings and will be taking every morning until further – until nothing! What am I saying? Will be taking every morning. Perfectly rational. Not superstitious at all. Just describing it because it’s worth describing.
I leave the house, and if it’s today, I think about childhood Summer holidays. The trees are moving, and noisy, and the wind carries flecks of rain. This is the weather for walking down to the beach with spade, bucket and crab-line. This is the weather for not wanting to be the only child on the beach in a complete set of waterproofs. Picnic out of a hamper, wait an hour to swim, and then later, have the sand brushed out from between my toes before I can put my shoes back on. This is that weather. Piling up walls of sand against the tide. The weather for shivering, and then being wrapped in a towel. Soul weather, by one definition.
More recently, this is the weather for walking down Trelawney Road from the top, the big trees moving in the wind, then crossing the road at the bottom and going round (okay, spellcheck – around) past the cinema into The Moor. There’s a bus shelter outside Wetherspoon’s where, if you happen to be me and it’s a day like this, you can sit and watch the trees up the slope above Good Vibes, Espressini, et cetera. Yes, I have a thing about trees. Down from Good Vibes (et cetera) is the paper shop. Up from Espressini (et cetera) is a shop called Matt’s RC Garage, and that’s going to matter in years to come.
RC as in Radio Control, of course, not Roman Catholic nor Rigid Containers. But we’ll get to Matt and his establishment in a few paragraph’s time. Right now, we’re walking down past the bottom end of Jacob’s Ladder, past Tesco on the other side, past Bow, which sells bags, and round into Church Street, which is cobbled (except where it isn’t, but the water-main people have promised to put the cobbles back). If you time it just right, Church Street is packed with outsize delivery trucks squeezing past each other. At Wilko, until recently, the pre-opening cleaners played loud music to themselves over the PA system.
Church Street, and then the slope down to the Church Street Car Park, which is actually Fish Strand Quay, which is where Captain Lapenotiere arrived in the schooner Pickle in November 1805 with news of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson (readers unfamiliar with the history: naval battle; admiral who won it but was killed). They’re refitting the closed pub by the slope – probably not the same “Them” who work behind the scenes to rule the world through the Illuminati. If you walk to the far end of Fish Strand Quay, you come to a slightly lower area of the car park where there are occasionally early-morning exercise classes.
Then it’s up past the sailmaker and the figurehead, past the oyster restaurant and the build-your-own breakfast café – the Wheelhouse and the Rumbling Tum respectively, been to the first (yes!), not the second (I’ll get there) – and out of the stone archway onto Church Street, That was Upton Slip, named after Captain Upton (readers unfamiliar, he was mayor of Falmouth in 1708), and now we’re crossing Church Street again and heading up Well Lane, past the craft shop and Pea Souk, and now here we are on New Street facing the steps. We need to go up and then diagonally across the cleared grass.
This is where the long-term planning comes in. I’ve heard it said that the test of really good writing is that it needs only the bare minimum number of words to get a huge amount of meaning across – plot, character, emotion, scene-setting, et cetera – and if this post qualifies as really good writing, you’ll already know that in the window of Matt’s RC Garage, there’s an all-terrain radio-controlled vehicle, maybe the term would be “muscle car”, or “utility”, or some such, on which each wheel has been replaced by three wheels within a caterpillar track – so that it has a kind of triangular tank track at each corner. On its own scale, this thing would be extremely handy for climbing steps. I need one. Scaled up. Or rather, I need its wheels – tracks.
Walking is a good time for thinking, or indeed forward planning, and the current recurring daydream – they tend to last a few days each – is all about how I’m going to take this walk when I’m as old as, I don’t know, that 25th-Dynasty Egyptian mummy in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Iset Tayef Nakht was a priest from the Temple of Al Karnack, I find. Busy man, no doubt. I suppose he had people to carry him around. I need – eventually, I’m going to need – a mobility scooter with a souped-up engine and some serious step-climbing wheels – triangular tank tracks, in fact. Iset went off into the next world in a carved box surrounded by representations of all the things an Egyptian man of that time would have accumulated in his shed. I need something that’ll get me to the sunlit uplands of Vernon Place and beyond.
Some time back, Jack London wrote a book with the title The Call of the Wild (1903). Self-explanatory title, I’ve always thought. I don’t exactly feel the call of the wild as I walk past Matt’s RC Garage in the mornings (strictly, I don’t, because I go round by the cinema; let’s call this artistic licence), but as I glance in the window at all the gadgets, remote-controlled cars, aeroplanes, accessories, shiny things, I do feel the call of something. I said goodbye to my last mid-life crisis a while ago, and I’m not quite ready for my second childhood, but … something. Taking a small radio-controlled vehicle for a walk every morning would be an alternative to getting a dog, I suppose, but … no. It’s not that.
The call of the Inner Child, maybe? I don’t know. Do I need to develop an interest that requires more hands-on work than just tapping on the screen of my smartphone? Not sure. Maybe. I'll go in one day. But in the meantime, if this weather continues, I’m definitely buying myself a bucket. And a spade.
There’s a bar, but the bar’s upstairs and I was downstairs, and sometimes, when you know that everybody else has gone upstairs, and when you’re really too thirsty to go up and join the back of the drinks queue that just came out of Screen One – I went to the ticket desk. Here, the choice was between a blue Slushie and something from the fridge. Nothing against Slushies, and do look them up online (gosh!), but – reader, I bought myself a plastic bottle. With fizzy water in it. Yes, I have been thinking about the self-exemptions we give ourselves when we care about the planet. Yes, I am totally and righteously against waste plastic. But … this was me and I was thirsty.
Surely, if I’m genuinely and sincerely against plastic waste, I can buy myself a plastic bottle when I need one? Just like – no, I’ll stick with my own example. Just one teensy-weensy plastic bottle containing a mere 500ml of ice-cold fizzy water filtered through the layers of prehistoric rocks and minerals behind the Phoenix Cinema’s chiller cabinet? Surely? The salutary moment was the look of genuine shock on the face of one of my companions when I returned to my seat with my plastic bottle. The answer to the question(s) in this paragraph turns out to be … no. Just because I consider myself to be one of the good guys, doesn’t mean I can be bad occasionally.
To get the rest of the virtue-signalling out of the way quickly, I wrestled with my conscience, bought a Sodastream, couldn’t get it to work (this says more about me), bought half a dozen glass bottles of fizzy water, read the Sodastream instructions, asked for help with it, got it to work (well, I didn’t exactly), search-engined my way through a lot of online stuff about the wickedness of bottled-water companies, blah, blah, blah, drank a glass of water poured from a glass bottle, and got on with my life. By which I mean: I got on with a long weekend of dropping out of the news cycle.
No matter what I was doing; that isn’t the point. What matters is: I had a long weekend of not hearing any news at all. Nothing whatsoever. The sun shone. The rain fell. The days went by quickly because we were enjoying ourselves. I missed the whole of a controversial state visit, and a big chunk of a leadership race. The climate changed, but in my bit of it, the weather was just weather. I didn’t hear any news for about, oh, five days. The sun shone, the birds sang, the tide came in and out. The milk arrived in the mornings, the post in the early afternoons, and at intervals, the washing machine rumbled in the background.
I remember exactly where I was when that happy time ended. Where I was, but the point here is how it ended. There I was, in my state of disconnected bliss, and all of a sudden, somebody threw a bucket of cold water into my face. No, wait, that’s the metaphor. What really happened was: all of a sudden, somebody launched into a detailed description of the treatment meted out to chickens by “agribusiness” in the USA. The treatment of chicken farmers as well. Pigs came into it. And I thought: oh no! I’m back on this planet. Having been so totally tuned out, I couldn’t immediately connect with the details; it was more that we were bonding over indignation; that such things are done in the world; that being indignant about them is the other half of the human condition; that nothing is far away any more. There was automatically a side to take, but for once it was the side-taking that struck me first.
If what I was told is true, you may assume that I agree with you. Yes, I get it. But what I want to know is, why are we like this? Why can’t we just be happier in the world? Kinder to life? Answer: (1) because people behave in ways … and (2) we can’t help finding out about them and (3) we react as we do. Those ways might be expedient, and perhaps there are arguments on either side, et cetera. It’s a shame, in a way, that we’re all so committed to getting our own side across. But just altogether – why? What is it about the human race? I’ve lived in rural places where the animals have lived happy lives that ended too quickly for them to know about it. I’ve lived long enough to know that we’re worse to each other, physically, spiritually, mentally, than we are to any other living thing. How is it that we don’t learn to live? To live in nature?
I’ve kept chickens, and I remember a farmer saying to me once, after a not very successful attempt to hatch eggs in an incubator, “The fact is, William, the hens are better at this than we are.” I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian, but if there’s horribleness involved, I’m going to have to look elsewhere for my lunch.