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I was feeling grumpy earlier this week. Down in the dumps. Fed up with all sorts of things. All the things you’d expect (politics etc), but additional things of my own: worries about securing work, worries that I’d made a terrible mistake leaving my last job, worries about money and family and life.
So I went for a walk, which is always my first choice in these situations. Go for a walk, discover something new, allow time for my brain to chill a bit. I got a bus to Bath.
Having lived near Bath for over a decade now, I feel like I know it pretty well, but on closer inspection at a map I realised that’s not really true. I know the centre well, but the edges? Not well at all. I decided I’d explore some of Bath’s edges.
From Pulteney Street, where the bus dropped me off, I headed across Henrietta Park and zigzagged to St John’s Street, parallel to the river. Northwards to Cleveland Bridge, then after it the first of two very steep climbs: up Gay’s Hill, then further up an unnamed footpath that goes from Camden Road to Richmond Place.
Behind me as I climbed, Bath sizzled in morning fog, church spires and construction cranes poking through the top of it and lit from behind by dazzling sun. A gorgeous sight. For a moment I wished for a proper camera, a long lens and a tripod, so that I could capture that image. Only for a moment, though: I was immediately grateful for not having to carry all that stuff around on my back.
Onwards, down Summerfield Road, Solsbury Way and Charlcombe Way. Through a huge 1960s/70s housing estate, very like the one I grew up in. On my map, Charlcombe Way is a road all the way along, but in reality it narrows to a single lane track, then a footpath with home-made “Take your dog shit home” posters. It looked as if the path might just end, but I reminded myself: paths very rarely just end. If other people have walked this way, they must have been heading somewhere. And they were. The path met a road, just as the map predicted. It just did so in a pathy way, rather than a roady way.
Then a sharp turn up Van Diemen’s Lane, which was the unexpected second steep climb of the morning. Big houses on either side, some of them very new and a little bit Grand Designs. At the top, the junction with Lansdown Road. A moment to catch my breath, and a moment to realise: I wasn’t feeling quite so grumpy any more.
Until now, the walk had been Mostly Up. Now it was time to start the Mostly Down section.
Down Lansdown Road, down Sion Road, down Winifred’s Lane, across the golf course and into Victoria Park.
Trudging, head down, I noticed a robin on the path. They’re tame little creatures, robins. We’ve noticed before how they’ll hang out in the garden with us when we’re working out there. They know it’s a good opportunity to grab a freshly unearthed worm.
This robin was also worm hunting. I realised there was a wriggling worm just a few centimetres from my foot. I stood still. The robin jumped to a nearby twig, then a fence, eyeing me up. It looked at the worm. It looked at my foot. It weighed up the chances. For a moment I wished for a proper camera, perhaps a zoom lens to move in close to the robin's cheerful little face, perhaps burst mode to make sure I got a goodun. Only for a moment, though: I was immediately grateful that it was just me and this robin, on a path in Vicky Park, sharing a wormy moment together.
The robin flew back down. I watched as it pecked its way through lunch. It didn’t eat the whole thing in one go, but a couple of centimeters at a time. One mouthful equals about a quarter of a worm. A minute or so of furious pecking, and the worm was gone. The robin looked up a me for just a second, as if to say “Worms, eh?” Then it was gone.
I definitely didn’t feel grumpy any more.
Southwards across the river, then along the river path towards the city centre. My feet were getting tired now, and I’d achieved my objective. More cheerful than before, I headed back towards the bus station. The bus was late leaving, but actually, I didn’t mind.
(26 Jan 2017)