Back and forth.
The trees diffuse into the distance as the hill rolls away. It’s like a wave swelling to a predictable apex and then swallowing away back into itself. A densely foliaged wave.
Steps are from chopped wood, trunks chopped roughly into halves, thirds, quarters, depending on their size. Bark left on. They’re wedged in, wired, filled with earth and layered with gravel. By now most of it has been kicked away. The roughcast stairway opens onto a pub which sells alcohol plus bicycle repair and there isn’t an hour when some thirsty mechanic doesn’t turn up with a crank and spanner in each hand in search of an un-chilled beer.
Across a crossing, which stops for no one, the impending incline calls for a tightening of the shoelaces. A couple more streets and another church stands ahead. Looking upon a small side-street far too dense in traffic, fumes and soot settled on walls, windows and disfigured statues which acquire an irregular gothic shade, blackened like Coketown brickwork.
Onward to another hill and gradual increase in gradient. Another bar, but no bikes. Carrying on in this direction you won’t see a crank or an un-chilled beer is the same set of hands for a long while. But you will see the legs of a horse and the head of a man – an old, well-fed man – set atop a fine pair of copper hinds and fore’s. Neither with any torso nor other extremities, but an accurately measured gap set between the two. As if a phantom or merely floating of its own accord, the statue performs an incomplete assemblage with the heart ripped out.
Two or three more hills incline and decline, oscillating steadily about their degrees. Pubs and bars of various theme and shops of niche affairs go about their still ways as they often do in the early hours of an afternoon set under incredulously greying clouds. We have seen rain already once this morning, unexpected yet short-lived, seen it turn into hardened balls of hail, hail of a density brushed whimsically from a jacket’s sleeve. They drop into puddles growing in cracks between bricks in the ground, drown and melt away.
A larger road approaches, yet the same amount of traffic as the small side-street far too dense for the church of Dickensian red-brick which looks upon it. And another crossing which stops for no one. Noise as niche shops become small supermarkets and pubs become bars become restaurants. Further along, Hi-Vis bodies armed with spades dig in circles, swinging and heaving in a monotonous Mexican wave. A fluorescent portaloo proudly bares its servitude to human habit.
Off the larger road and multi-storied buildings break the drone of over-revved engines, the stop and start of interrupted snakes of traffic. Silence rears now and then. Silence is a rare thing. To either side smaller streets curve away like outstretched arms harbouring rows of parked cars of various shape, form and function, blocking the view of an already obscured road. Lights turn red then green – no amber.
After the monotony of a pleasurable walk you’re back on the same street again. Another space, another time, another mood. Key in hand, you run the grooves against the pad of your thumb. You push the point into your palm and see how long the reddened indent takes to re-surface. Squeeze a finger for a whole ten seconds and watch the blood seep back into the nail.