I knew someone in Bath who collected heart shapes. He’d wander around the city with his camera taking pictures of stuff on the ground that had inadvertently formed into a heart. Chewing gum, a stone, a bit of spittle, a leaf, a torn piece of paper, seagull shit anything. I started to see heart shapes too. Everywhere. I still do.
The countryside is black with writers walking, said the man in the film.
Writers are often walkers, he said during a seminar.
During the week I end my morning walk down Great Darkgate Street so that I can go past Slater’s Bakery. It’s the smell. Sometimes it catches me before I approach, the corner where Boots Opticians is say but mostly, it is afterwards, when I am nearing Rees Astley Insurance Brokers. It is a gorgeous aroma, warming, salty, yeasty and familiar. Like being inside a womb. Life-giving. Enriching. Today there were three white floury footmarks outside.
Two slugs are pulling their way along the tarmac. One on the hill by Alexander Hall, the other by the Castle. I step over them. Their slime shimmers in the yellowy glare of the street lights like Christmas glitter mixed with glue.
A fishing boat was just leaving as I entered the Harbour. Its tower of lights, red, green and white was ablaze against the black. The engine chuddered softly, the boat clinging to the wall, reluctant to leave. There was no swell, the searchlight was a perfect unbroken line of white on the sea. The boat edged its way out of the harbour, the pull towards home still strong. Then it broke free, upped a gear and it was out into the wide blue-black.
I heard a noise, my back stiffened, I turned. A front door had opened, a woman wearing a cycling helmet smiled at me. Safe. One the Prom nearing South Marine a man comes towards me wearing a hoodie. His eyes are furtive, looking inside. No contact is made. Nothing. My hackles bristle. I want to smile but it would be lost, unaccepted.
He’d told me that there would be no more birdsong but this morning there was. Blackbirds, robins, finches – and it was still dark.
As he gradually lost both the will and ability to speak he started to wave. Everything was put into that wave – a strange, uncharacteristic fiddly, flapping gesture, like long feathers moving separately in a wing. The wave would say hello, yes, I know, that’s funny, I hear you and goodbye. It was a feminine gesture, a gesture of acquiescence, of grace, of defeat.