Christmas Day was a bit of a grey, damp, dank sort of a day and I decided I would go out for a walk in the morning before lunch. This would set the day up well for the idleness that would in no doubt follow. A quick trot around the block I thought to myself, but as I walked my feet kept going and what was going to be at most a nice three miles soon became five. I walked and walked.
Most of where I live is suburban streets but there are moments when I can go 'off piste' and follow paths through unexpected greenery. In one of those moments (so close to a large retail park you can reach out and almost touch it), there is a junction in the paths where you can take the high road or the low road. The low road is prone to flooding though it is just a bit puddly at the moment. I usually go the low road as it follows the brook which I now see as a connector linking together different parts of my walks. Sometimes it is overground, sometimes is it underground, but it is there a companion on my walks. On Christmas Day I decided to take the high road, which generally I find less interesting but today I was looking to vary my route, to vary my life by a degree. I am a creature of too many habits and sometimes I have to push myself to not do the usual.
There in front of me, as a reward, was this purple haze of shrubs/trees doing their best to shine in the low light. I nearly just walked on by, but the colour was so good that it had captured my attention. I stopped to take the photo. As I got closer I had to stop again as the colours became more complicated.
I try and decide what the trees are, I am not a great identifying of trees but I think these are blackthorn. A good barrier of a tree that has wicked long thorns. The dark stems are covered in white simple open blossom in the Spring followed by the sloes in Autumn. It is a tree commonly grown around here and I have quite a bit of it growing in the boundary hedge to the back garden. The thorns are fierce and needle like. The tips seem to break off sticking in the skin quite easily, each tip giving the potential for a swollen painful splinter that could just be removed simply or carries the real fear of infection. I always know when I have been pruning the blackthorn as I will spend days picking out the black splinters from my hands.
I continue my walk and I am soon walking along pavements again. I like looking at the different front gardens as I walk by. I was going to say that I do not judge them as I walk by and I am not really judging them. I am assessing them though. There will be plants I like and plants I am not so fond of. There are a lot that are just paved over and some that are quite neglected. I see some plants used with little imagination and some used incredibly well. One of my favourite moments is the small hedge that has salvia looking flowers. Maybe it is a salvia. It was so pretty when it flowered in the Summer and it still looks ok now.
It is that time on Christmas Day when children are emerging on their new scooters (so many electric scooters) and bicycles. Parents are wandering behind enjoying seeing the happiness the gifts have brought. I negotiate the route, sometimes I step off of the pavement to let them pass and sometimes the parents step to let me go through. We smile at each other, my smile is the memory of past Christmas mornings when it was my children enjoying their new toys. It is a smile parents new and old share.
I wander past various dogs and their owners. I smile at the dogs and the owners smile back. It brings to mind a short story I read when I was very young, I cannot remember who wrote it. The premise of the story was that there was that a smile at a stranger can change their whole day. This thought has always stayed with me and whilst I do not smile manically at everyone I see, there are times when it happens. 'Merry Christmas' is said to me a few times and I say it back and I feel that my day is improved by this small act of kindness. Is this one of the changes that the pandemic has wrought? I am sure we did not used to say hello to each other when walking locally previously. It is the hello that walkers share, happy to see someone else out walking. Which makes this all sound rather twee and lovely, so I suppose I need to temper this with the definite moments where making eye contact is a bad thing. I cannot pretend all is sweetness and light. But those thoughts are for another day......