Transition

Last night I was supposed to go to a party, but in the end I didn’t; I went for a walk instead.

Lone city walking is something I’ve done ever since I was a student in Norwich 24 years ago. Every now and then, the urge would hit me and I’d head out for a meander through the suburban streets. Dusk was my favourite time, the houses aglow like lanterns, the lights on but the curtains not yet closed. I loved how each identical terraced house was unique inside – some richly coloured and jewel-like, others artlessly homely, as comfortable as old shoes.

Swansea has its own flavour – a little harder around the edges, less quaint and somehow more expansive, the sighing sea an open, beckoning border. From my house in Uplands I head west to Sketty, the pavements glossed with rain. Streetlamps are haloed by the static fuzz of water droplets, and the occasional taxi swooshes wetly by.  Sketty’s big houses are hard to see into; most are set back from the road, up flights of steps. An occasional Christmas tree is the only reward for my trespassing eyes, so I loop back, tracing the streets like a loving finger, right down into the crevices of Uplands and Brynmill.

Here, terraced houses flash neon pink and blue. Christmas trees shimmer in windows, and occasional figures pass me by: jostling testosterone lads; girls in their best black dresses, hair ironed, wafting perfume. A louche student smokes on a doorstep; I think he says something but I have my headphones in, listening to Siri Nilsen’s ethereal yet muscular Norwegian songs; they are a strange, otherworldly soundtrack for this walk, and as I don’t understand the words they leave my mind spacious, open, free.

My walks are not about thinking, at least, not in a linear way. Thoughts and feelings pass as fleetingly as cars, and I make no effort to hold onto them. I know, though, that something happens en route; a kind of sifting and sorting, a system reboot. Over the years my city wanderings have helped me filter through my passions and wants, my friendships and loves, my jobs and my pastimes, separating the vigorous from the vapid, the true from the false, the nourishing from the barren. It’s the special magic of the city streets; the glimpses of other lives, other possibilities; the soft beat of my footsteps; the knowledge that I am moving on, moving forward, and the route is not prescribed.

Wandering down into Brynmill I pass a chef on his way home from work, his whites gleaming in the darkness. The smell of drying laundry wafts on the breeze and I score a special success by seeing into a house I have long been curious about because of the hippie ornaments in the garden. Inside, a man sits on the sofa looking out at me, ‘Love and Peace’ emblazoned on the wall behind him.

Down on Bryn y Mor Road I see men nursing lonely pints by a pub window. Two lads run at breakneck speed down the middle of the road, while I turn into the backstreets, emerging on Walter Road near my favourite Chinese restaurant, where a fat man and a thin man stoop hungrily over their bowls.

Back in the Uplands, people mill on the street in their New Year finery. It’s an hour or so to countdown, by which time I will be home and in bed. I hope they enjoy it, and maybe next year I’ll join them, but this year’s transition is a quiet one.

 

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9 comments

  • Lovely piece. I can relate – I like walking through the city at night, whatever city it is. Have interesting memories traversing Wiesbaden, Mainz, Hamburg, Cardiff, London… Something else that’s interesting – differently interesting – is walking the dogs on Kilvey Hill when it is dark. I love it. Viewing the world by the light of a head-torch changes it. It’s great for walking meditations. Well, what I think of as walking meditations: just letting go of thoughts & trying to really experience stuff through the senses. Walking along the beach at night is interesting, too…

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    • Thank you so much – and yes, totally! It’s the spirit of the flâneur, I think, and I love it almost more than being a part of everything. It is a kind of meditation, and it probably affects me more than a sitting meditation. I do it in every city I visit – my favourite being an aimless wander around Barcelona while Jamie took a nap. It gives me a deep sense of peace, and I would love to walk up on Kilvey Hill with you before you leave xx

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      • Definitely – I can take you across it to appreciate its full glory. Although, for these medidative walks one really has to be alone, preferably with good music over earphones. 😊

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  • A beautiful piece of writing Jenny, evocative, descriptive and lovely to read. xxx

    From: jennywhitewriter To: angela.chalkley@btinternet.com Sent: Sunday, 1 January 2017, 13:15 Subject: [New post] Transition #yiv1498409594 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1498409594 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1498409594 a.yiv1498409594primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1498409594 a.yiv1498409594primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1498409594 a.yiv1498409594primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1498409594 a.yiv1498409594primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1498409594 WordPress.com | Jenny White posted: “Last night I was supposed to go to a party, but in the end I didn’t; I went for a walk instead.Lone city walking is something I’ve done ever since I was a student in Norwich 24 years ago. Every now and then, the urge would hit me and I’d head out for ” | |

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  • Such an evocative piece. I love to walk the city when it’s quiet. My days of partying through the New Year are long gone. Feet up with a cuppa and Hootenanny for me 😀

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