Walking (55)

I’m reading, in between my research,┬áRobert McFarlane’s book The Old Ways. A friend had said that he’d been one of his tutors on an Arvon course and that they’d sat up into the early hours drinking whisky together. (When McFarlane walks he carries a flask of it with him.) And I’d mixed him up with another Scottish writer, a novelist who wrote a story about Northern Norway, I think it was called The Summer of Drownings. It wasn’t him. But then I heard an audio of McFarlane’s book on the radio. It was entrancing. So now I am reading it. I love the old language terms he slips into his texts. The old words for paths, hedges and waterways. I can never remember them but I love to read them feel them in my head and on my tongue. He writes of the past walkers, Victorians like George Borrow many of whom walked to manage their depression. ‘The Horrors’ Borrow called them. They walked hundreds of miles. I just do the same circle each day. I used to be an adventurer but not any longer. The mind still dreams of it but the body is not what it used to be. McFarlane writes how he walks the paths he’s taken in his mind when he can’t sleep. I should do the same. I could walk it through my encounters with smells. How good the earth smelt this morning after the rain. A sweet, clammy humus-like moistness. The honey-ed scent of the buddleia had gone slightly bitter in the wet, as had the elderflower. I didn’t mind. It is so evocative of summer, even so. My head is sludgy. I am not sleeping well. I sleep but it is wakeful. And I am forgetful and clumsy. I shall try to write. Do a stint. But I fantasise about an hour’s sleep in the cool of my bedroom. We’ve been shopping but I forgot all my citrus fruit. What a twit. All my oranges and precious grapefruits. He is so patient. He goes back for them. And then I realise I’ve also forgotten the pineapple. Will I be good for anything today?

He was brave. He mastered it. I was so proud of him.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.