Roaming In Rome, Connecting In Retrospect

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes to our locked-down spirits!

I sat a while in our town centre gardens, drinking a coffee while watching people come and go. It was almost, almost, like the world before, when nothing impinged on our intentions and freedom other than schedules and finance.

The new warmth took me back even further, to around 2006, when I was in Rome. I would get up early and after showering go for a walk along the Tiber. Along the way I’d call for a bottle of water from a small shop that I knew of, tucked away down a small backstreet, that was championed by the locals as it didn’t charge the inflated prices that the others inflicted upon we tourists.

I would loop a route back round to take in Peter and Paul in St.Peter’s Square, up there high on their pedestals, before the crowds arrived with their clicking cameras and eager eyes. As the day wore on, with the sun well on its way to reach its zenith, there were no shortage of churches that I could choose from to seek respite in their cool stone shade.

It was on one of those days, easy and long, that I was sat having a beer next to the Colosseum when my wife messaged to inform me that the girl we fostered had shaved off her eyebrows!

Talk about being hooked right back into the ‘real’ world back home.

It’s funny how different places bring different memories, small connections that lead into each other over time. Hopefully soon there will be new places offering new memories and connections to be made down the line.

Anyway, that particular memory found a home in my second poetry collection In Brigantia, born of a conversation with one girl that made a connection with the recollection of another.

The Music Along The Stretch

Maybe I should change my route.

In a recent post I mentioned the Heywood Stretch, a road along which I often take my dog for a walk. Sticking to the same route at least affords you the chance to observe any changes. Seasonally, I mean, rather than roadworks.

The other week I could see up ahead of me the turbines on the moors (the turbines that found their way into the first draft of a poem that I’ve posted). The moors were white, layered with days-old snow that never made it down to these lower reaches, apart from an ever so slight dusting of the fields that must have been spindrift on the wind.

Maybe I should widen my taste.

I’m sure that there’s lots of great new music out there just waiting for me to discover it. But when I want to pass a certain amount of time I always seem to return to the era I love the best, which basically runs from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies.

I was doing just this on another trip there when winter made the most of my complacency, ambushing me in a sudden brief snowstorm that had me blinking furiously to navigate a path through the fury that had engulfed me. It was only brief but it was freezing, and I couldn’t help but smile at the irony as Ray Davies was telling me to

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire

When I got back I followed his instructions mostly to the letter.

I warmed myself with a coffee as I sat listening to this box set that I’ve just managed to pick up on eBay for a fifth of the price it normally goes for.

Listening to the vocal harmonies of the group through headphones, you can really appreciate John Phillips’ gift for arrangement. And what voices Cass and Denny, in particular, had.

The very next day the dog and I worked the Stretch again. This time there was no snow and no biting wind, but still it seemed that winter was hanging on for dear life, defying spring’s rightful claim to the throne.

Later that night, deja vu: I’d had another delivery.

This time, I’d managed to get myself a book signed by a Door. Which I suppose is easier than a Door signed by a book.

“Look at this,” I said to my wife Jen. “This is by the drummer from The Doors.” I took her finger and placed it lightly on the signature. “Just think, this was touched by a hand that has rested on the shoulder of Jim Morrison while they shared a beer.

She was distinctly unimpressed, whereas I was falling backwards through eras and decades.

And then I returned to the present.

Tonight, it felt so much better walking the dog. Everything was lighter. It felt like spring had had its coronation, it felt like new beginnings. And maybe there was the psychological aspect too, for we’d just heard the details about how our locked down country is set to open up again.

Good weather and freedom is in sight.

And for this walk I’d changed gear (a little). moving up to the 80’s to listen to The Police. As my journey neared its end, one of Sting’s solo songs came on, Desert Rose. Algerian singer Cheb Mami is on that, giving it a distinctive world music feel. And I’m not sure why but it just seemed appropriate for the moment, as the day settled down with the sun bidding me goodbye whilst also whispering that it won’t be for long.

A Bit Of The Wife’s Perspective

It was one of those historic moments.

I sat watching it live-the landing of the Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars. Any of a number of things could have gone wrong, you couldn’t take anything for granted.

And I didn’t. As I waited I thought of our evolutionary journey and how we were landing upon an island we should never have been able to reach, navigating a vast ocean which we should never have been able to cross.

And I witnessed it all on my iPad with a brew:

We’re going in.

After a few moments of palpable tension, confirmation was given that the mission had been a success and Perseverance was on the red planet. In the control room there were cheers and fist pumps and congratulatory relief.

Then the first eagerly awaited images reached us, after travelling 205.62 million km, due solely to decades of man’s ingenuity.

Jen: “It looks like my cheesecake.”

Bridge Of Sighs

Remember this? The outside world?

With the news that children are to begin the return to school from the eighth of March, and that grassroots kids’ football is hoped to resume not long after this, I managed to peel my son, James, off his PlayStation to go on what I hope will be a series of regular walks to build up his fitness. Mine too.

We set off down a long road which, despite us coming from the same place, some of my friends refer to as The Mad Mile. I, however, know it as The Heywood Stretch.

At the end of this road you come to a roundabout bridge which looks down onto the M62, as shown in the photograph.

We stopped there, for a breather, the wind blowing in our faces as those below us, those fellow lockdown escapees, blew their horns and waved up at us in a semblance of some barely remembered social interaction as they disappeared from view.

“Why are they waving at us?” James asked.

“They are just being friendly,” I replied.

“Do they think we’re gonna jump?”

(Long pause.) “I hope not.”