Walking without Purpose
It’s January 2021 and we’re in Lockdown again. They’re calling this ‘Lockdown Three’. I accepted
the inevitability and importance of Lockdowns One and Two. I had hoped that Lockdown One
would be the first and last. Nevertheless, here we are yet again.
I check my diary (AKA the family kitchen wall planner) to ensure that I am not expected in any
highly prestigious venue, meeting highly influential people. Unsurprisingly, I am not. Choices are
abundant since I am generally resourceful, however, today I choose to walk.
‘Walking with Purpose’ is a term that describes a particular behaviour exhibited by people with
dementia. A brief memory of my late father pops into my head. He struggled with the wicked
Alzheimers condition that accompanied him to his death. Fond memories merge into unsettling
ones so with a mindful approach, I dismiss the painful images and reach for my outdoor clothing.
It’s a sunny day but cold. As I don my quilted coat, thermal gloves and trapper headwear, another
vision pops into my head. This time one of my son, a staff nurse in a London Hospital A & E
Department. His donning and doffing of PPE in preparation for each shift is far more daunting
than mine is today. I pause once more in loving thought, tinged with pride and respect, then
mindfully dismiss the maternal concern element. Letting go is always a work in progress.
Closing the Oxford Blue front door (that I re-painted during Lockdown One!), I set off on my Walk,
not with purpose but with a determination to be without purpose.
My route towards the seafront progresses downhill along a long curving main road via the town. In
my mind’s eye I am treading over the ghost of a Great Western Railway line, one of which was
removed during the Beeching era. My head turns instinctively to the left I pass close to my
childhood home concealed behind the railway line’s raised grassy bank that still exists. Daffodil
bulbs planted along the length of the bank flower in the Spring. No sign of them just yet. The
sound of regular train services could be heard through my childhood bedroom sash-windows.
During my early years, I embraced the fascination of steam. I remembered excitement at boarding
those locomotives for family excursions. A scenic journey from the mouth of the river to our
nearest city at the head of the estuary. Carriage compartments lined with plush bench seats were
brilliantly gleaming with varnished wood veneer and chrome. More ghosts.
Onward whilst walking without purpose! My journey continues along a fork in the road steering me
towards the Marina. This minor road was also repurposed from a short railway track used for
shunting freight to the Docks area, thriving in the early part of the last century. Once commercial
demands waned, these derelict tracks, complete with rails and sleepers, became a public shortcut
to the sea. A delightful jumping and hopping opportunity for a bouncy child! More ghosts.
I reach The Marina ‘development’. A quadrangle of towering apartments with cladded facades in
blue, yellow and green. Stoic in their guard over moored cruisers, power boats and RIBs.
Formerly and endearingly this landmark was known as The Docks. Those eternal ghosts
embedded here give rise to a smile. Visions of warehouses, jib cranes, trawlers and huge cargo
ships. The scent of timber, coal, and animal feed in the air. Fisherman laughing and waxing lyrical
in the ‘Beach Hotel’ public bar, staggering out at midnight. Frequently known to have returned
home as drenched husbands, sons and fathers, having missed their footing at the Dock basin’s
I turn the corner. Being in sight of the sea makes most things better. An inviting horizon
accompanies the perpetual motion and calming sounds of the waves, so very familiar and
comforting. My walk without purpose has now provided me with purpose. I look. I see. I
appreciate and enjoy.