Habit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.”

11 Jan. I should have checked the weight of the book – The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin – before I set off. It was like carrying a small child on my shoulders through the Hertfordshire/Greater London borderlands. And I was already tired. I had the usual winter blues but harder, more gnarly, or so it seemed having forgotten the hard gnarly blues of last year or the year before that or …

Edgwarebury Lane

This is an easy time of year to be a writer. No fancy prose needed. Everything is already in black and white. All you need to do is copy it. The trees marching up the motorway cutting, the water from a power hose meandering down the dark lane and the clouds reflected in the puddles on the bridge.

I had been reading – and enjoying – Stuart Jeffries’s book, “Grand Hotel Abyss” when the Becket quote jumped out at me.

Now walking the borderland again with its fly-tipping, lager-soaked alleys, squeaky cobbles, twilight homes and cemeteries I wondered if there was something about vomit that Becket had missed.

Richard Jefferies reckoned you couldn’t truly appreciate a walk in spring or summer that you hadn’t also done in January. I took warmth – but not much – from the sun lighting the tops of the poplars with colour: proof that the monochrome world will wear a happier aspect in a few weeks time. The muddy pool churned up by four legs will be passable on two and lined with bluebells and wild garlic, yellow rattle and white dead nettle. An habitual walk isn’t necessarily a ball and chain. Returning to old paths can also be a happy projection.


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