Off-Grid in My Back Yard

I’m trying to get more walking done. The scientific theory behind this is that it’s better than nothing. Also I like walking, it kind of suits me.

‘Love Island’ helps. I have nothing against it as a TV Show, I just feel any time I spend watching it is a waste of time. That’s just me, it’s not a political statement or anything. So, for that reason, when it’s on, I tend to get up and go out for a walk. It’s good for me and, besides, it's Summertime, I should be out enjoying it a bit.

So, yes, I go out walking, in the moonlight… (somebody kills the rising orchestra… spoilsports).

The other evening, I was walking and I got a little bored with my usual route so I took an unusual turn or two. Here was a street I hadn’t been on for quite a while. Here was a place that’s pretty busy in term-time but utterly deserted this evening. And here… wait a minute… here… was a place I never been before.

Look at it. Where did this place even come from? This is my town now. I’ve lived here for 22 years, it’s really small. How could a place exist that I had never seen before?

There’s not much to tell about this place where I’ve never been before. It’s a huge car park without a single car in it and there’s a huge sign that threatens terrible things on anyone who parks there illegally. It’s just a big old space with nobody and nothing in it. The only remarkable thing is that it’s in my town and I never even knew it was there.

Well, there is one slightly more remarkable thing.

This place; it’s less than a five-minute walk from my house.

It seems crazy, doesn’t it? But, thinking about it, I’d nearly bet that we all have little places (or big empty spaces) really close to us that we don’t even know exist. Why would we? We tend to go from A to B, occasionally via C or D, and that’s about it. When we go walking, we go to our local scenic places or follow our familiar routes. We rarely veer off into the unknown.

But let’s. You and me, let’s just do it.

Wherever you live, I just bet there’s a place less than 500 metres away from you that you’ve never set foot on before. Maybe it’s just a field. Maybe it’s just a housing estate. Maybe, like me, it’s just a desolate car park where they threaten to lock you up if you use it, even though there’s nobody there.

And here’s the beauty of the plan. You don’t have to step outside of your door to start your expedition. You can plan it first. Hop on to Google Maps and zoom in on your area, examine the territory from map, satellite, and street view. Where haven’t you been? What haven’t you seen? Pick a spot, go and see it. Smell the air, take in the view. Fill in another tiny jigsaw piece of your environs.

On this, the 50th anniversary of the day we went to the moon. Take one small step for you.

Just see where it might lead you.


Jim Murdoch said...

Going for walks was a big part of my childhood. The whole family would up and head off up Shewalton (which the locals call “Shoalton” apparently) or down the shore. (Not quite sure when horizontal directions are up or down but there you go.) In later years Mum tended not to be included and then I discovered walking alone. There really can’t’ve been an inch of my home town I didn’t cover more than once and although the beach remained one of my haunts I’d also head into more populated and even industrial areas. I couldn’t tell you that last time I just went for a walk without going somewhere and I miss it. Perhaps if Carrie started demanding we watch Love Island I might start, that or get her committed like they used to do in t’old days. Oddly when I am out and about on my own these days I tend to feel lonely which is a new one for me as I’ve always regarded myself as a your bog-standard writer whose main interest in other people is as fodder. (The lady in 5F seems to have curtailed her widow sittings. Guess we’ll never know what all that was about.) I have walked around where we live now, taken different routes back from the shops but I seem to have lost that burning desire to investigate. I have done the whole Google Maps thing though. Not so much with where we live now but I have virtually wandered around my old stomping grounds in fact I’ll tell you what I did discover which was nice; some bloke set up a dash-cam and drove around my old town. Thankfully he didn’t add any commentary for which I was grateful.

I’ll leave you with a wee excerpt from Left which I need to do something with but I’ve been really demotivated for a good while now and it’s not as if anyone’s clamouring to read it. But I think you’ll be able to relate to it. It’s based on an actual conversation the first time my daughter came on a walk with me and my dad. (Just noticed it's half-two again.)

      Dad used to walk a lot. One of my earliest memories is being taken for a walk with Dad and his father:
       “Where are we going?” I wanted to know.
       “Nowhere,” my granddad said with a twinkle in his eye.
       “Not Where? I’ve been to Where—didn’t like it. Nowhere’s a lot nicer.”
       “Nowhere’s not a place,” I told him.
       “Who says? Everywhere’s a place and so is Elsewhere.”
       “How will I know when we’ve got there?” I wanted to know.
       “We’re not going to There. There’s on the road to Somewhere. That’s in the other direction. We’re going to Nowhere.”
       “Have you been to Nowhere before, Papa?”
       “Once or twice.”
       “What’s it like?”
       “Oh it’s a lot like Anywhere only not so busy.”
       “You’re being silly.”
       “Yes, I am,” he said. “It’s an old man’s prerogative.”

Marc Paterson said...

As is prone to happen when reading your blog, I find our lives mirroring one another once more. I too love to walk and I make an effort to uncover hidden worlds in the places I think I know like the back of my hand.

It started for me when I lived in Newcastle, where everything was new, every corner presented another adventure, and the more I walked the more I found. When I returned to Norfolk, my home town had places I'd never ventured down too.