Yesterday, I had to go to Dublin. I drove up and I drove back again. I hadn’t much to do but it had to be done all the same. As a result of that, from 2.00pm until 10.30pm, I had nothing at all to do and the city was at my beck and call.
So what did I do?
Imagine if somebody had put a private detective on me for the day. “Follow him, wherever he goes, whatever he does. I want a full report on my desk…”
What a shock she would have had, my detective-follower (yeah, I made her a ‘She’, it’s my imagination) and how very tired she would have been at the end of the day.
So what did I do on my lost eight-and-a-half hours in Dublin? What’s in that report sitting on the P.I.’s desk? Two words, that’s all.
Lots of people use those little devices for measuring how many footsteps they take in a day. If I had one, I wonder what mine would have reported yesterday? Lots and lots of steps. From two to ten, with a little break here and there, I walked the city. How many steps would that have been?
It’s a thing I do, when I go to cities, if I have some time. I love to walk. Hours and hours of walking around, looking into corners, finding streets and buildings I never saw before, watching people go by. I’ve done it in Boston and San Francisco and Auckland and Sydney and Bangkok… all over the place. Paris. I only had four hours in Paris, spat out of the Gare du Lyon at eight on a Sunday morning. I spent my fours hours walking around, even though I had an enormous backpack on my back.
A manic-walker me, when I get the bit between my teeth.
There might even be some people who might read this and be momentarily annoyed. “He was in Dublin, doing nothing, for eight flamin’ hours and he wouldn’t even ring up and have a coffee or something.” I must confess, I’m a bit shy about that sort of thing. I don’t like to impose on people. If we meet, we meet and I love it but I don’t tend to seek people out to organise rendezvous. I won’t tend to call to your house either. Let’s face it, I’m a bit odd.
I’ve just been tracing, on a map, the walk I did yesterday. It’s fairly astonishing. My legs are tired today and a bit stiff, as a result. Of course, I didn’t walk all of the time, I stopped for a coffee and a bun and I watched some rugby in a pub too with a Coke. But there was a lot of walking, six hours of it at least.
So what did I learn, from all this walking and looking? What did I see?
I learned that the locksmith's shop is closed on Saturdays, that surprised me a bit. I reminded myself that it’s entirely possible to be ensconced in a crowd and simultaneously be utterly alone – that’s a good thing to remember. As always, I was a bit shocked at the high levels of people sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin.
Nothing insightful, really, nothing new.
But then it’s not really about learning stuff and figuring stuff out. It’s much more about soaking stuff up. Letting the city seep in for an hour or six. I used to be a city boy and I’m not any more but cities are a bit like accents, you may lose them when you move away but they soon come back strong when you reacquaint yourself.
“So that’s it? That’s what I get for my twenty bucks an hour plus expenses? “He Walked”?”
“Sorry, chief, that’s all he did.”
“And what’s this five bucks for, here at the bottom?”
“Oh, that? That’s shoe leather."