I’ve been doing a lot of walking these last few days. This is partly because my bike has been in for a service (now reclaimed, complete with a new front mech shifter that actually works!), and partly because I’m planning to walk St James’ Way from Reading to Winchester in July, and I need to get some practice in.
I’ve walked from home to the station; I’ve walked from the station to home. I’ve walked as far round Regent’s Park as I could get in my lunch hour. I’ve walked from town to the station after I’d dropped my bike off, and from home to town to pick it up again.
I’ve been walking. I’ve been cycling. I spent twenty-five agonising minutes on a bus that was progressing down Station Road five metres at a time. I would almost swear that I could feel my blood pressure rising the longer I sat there. Stepping onto that bus, I’d relinquished control and surrendered to the rush hour. Cars are meant to give you control, but of course they don’t. There were plenty of cars stuck in that queue along with me.
I wanted my bike back. That was the reason I’d got on that bus in the first place: I had twenty minutes to get to the repair shop before it closed. I knew that I couldn’t make it on foot. I thought there was just a chance on the bus…
No. Twenty-five minutes of jerking, teeth-grinding, stop-starting creepy-crawling down Station Road and Hills Road. I ran from the bus station, but I didn’t have a hope of making it before the shop shut, and I knew it.
On the bright side, I had an excellent excuse to buy an ice cream and walk home, and it was a glorious evening in which to walk alongside the Cam, over Jesus Green and Midsummer Common, with the college rowing teams hauling themselves down the river and the trees very green with their new leaves.
I love walking. I love the freedom, the chance to turn aside and look properly at things that catch my eye, to go another way entirely. I love the gentle ache in my legs, reminding me that I’ve been out and seen things. I’m less keen on the blister; that’s from wearing the wrong shoes.
I’m so glad I don’t have to sit in that queue every day. I’m so glad I don’t drive. I’m so glad I don’t need to drive. I’m grateful that I’m well enough to walk long distances. I’m thankful for my own pig-headedness and determination that allowed me to relearn how to cycle in my late twenties. I’m glad that I’ve lived in towns and cities with good public transport links.
(And I do like a bus ride. But not in rush hour. Never again in rush hour. Not when I’ve got somewhere to be.)