Changes afoot

27 September 2018

When everyone around you is going down with colds and flu it feels like it’s only a matter of time before your turn comes. When I got up this morning there was a definite feeling of lurgie going on but I told myself I was probably imagining it. Besides, I had a package to deliver to a friend who lives close to the Millennium Flats so, ignoring a slight soreness of throat and muzzy head, my feet retraced footsteps from many previous walks. The route may have been all too familiar but the scenery has changed somewhat since I last came this way.

When I reached Northam Bridge I stopped for a while, leaned on the railings and looked at the calm clear water and the proliferation of boats in various stages of decomposition. In part this was because I quite like looking at the boats but also because my legs were feeling a little wobbly and my head more than a touch on the fuzzy side.   

Eventually I got moving again, albeit rather slowly. On the far side of the bridge it was clear a lot of building work has gone on while I’ve been walking elsewhere. There are new, rather swanky looking, flats on the old TV studio site and the ground is being cleared for even more. 

The flats look quite nice, especially the ones with balconies looking out over the water, although I can’t help wondering if the views will be obstructed by the next phase of the building work. Something else I wonder about is the blue painted fence along the river path. It seems a terrible shame to offer river views but not provide any access to the path. Hopefully, when the work is finished the fence will be removed.

Work is going on to build a play area and a small garden area. Trees are in the process of being planted and it looks as if it will be a nice place for the flat owners to sit. Hopefully the desolate park will also get a bit of a makeover once all the building work is complete. It could certainly do with it.

Summers Street has changed beyond all recognition. Once it was a street with just one house and now there are rows of new front doors and parking spaces. As I walked past the new buildings it was hard to remember the chain fence I used to pass each day with its overgrown shrubs laden with flowers or berries depending on the season and the little gooseberry bush that had always seemed so incongruous.

Around the corner the rubble and poppies have been replaced by yet more front doors and something that looks like shops to let. Hopefully they won’t end up being painted shops like the ones across the road.

Once I’d turned the next corner things began to look much more familiar. The industrial estate hasn’t changed a bit and the swans were still by the big rocks, just where they always used to be. They gave me an accusing look as I passed by. Whether this was because I didn’t have any food for them or because they wondered where I’d been I couldn’t tell. There were just two swans today and no cygnets at all. This has been a year sadly lacking in both swans and cygnets.

Beside the boardwalk the hippie ship was almost submerged. The shore around it seemed far more littered than I remember it. Someone had even dumped an old shopping trolley. It reminded me of the tin can sculpture I used to see every day when I worked on the industrial estate. The sculpture, a life sized woman made from hundreds of tin cans pushing a shopping trolley, was in the water close to the bridge. It was obviously not an official piece of artwork and, even though it was made of junk, it always made me smile. Sadly, in those days, I never had a mobile phone or a camera so I never managed to take a photo of her. This shopping trolley was definitely not a sculpture and I rather wished it wasn’t there at all.

Feeling sad that the poor swans have to live beside so much discarded human rubbish, I started off along the boardwalk. This, at least, was relatively litter free. Surprisingly, it was also empty of people. Usually there are cyclists and walkers going back and forth taking advantage of the short cut and the serene views across the river. It was quite nice to have the place all to myself for once.

About half way along my pleasure was interrupted by another sorry sight. A section of the boardwalk railing has been broken. This was obviously the work of vandals, as it must have taken quite some effort to break the railings and the missing poles were nowhere in sight. Why someone would do such a thing is beyond me but it made me sad to see it.

A little further on I found something to return the smile to my face. A large grasshopper was sitting on the railing looking for all the world as if he was sunbathing. He was even kind enough to let me take a few photos.

By now I was approaching the end of the boardwalk. Ahead the Millenium Flats were perfectly reflected in the still water and a small boat was heading downstream towards me. Idly, I wondered where it was going. Then I spotted a flash of bright orange in the trees beside the railway line. It was too big to be a plastic carrier bag caught in the branches. Curious, I walked on.

When I got close enough to see clearly I was none the wiser. The orange object looked like a sleeping bag made of plastic. It had a zip at the front and was hanging by two strings that looked as if they were toggles for a hood. As the breeze caught it, it danced. Whether this was just more litter, blown in from somewhere and caught in the trees or had been purposely placed there I couldn’t tell. Perhaps someone is sleeping rough nearby and using the tree as a wardrobe, or maybe it’s acting as a scarecrow or a warning of some kind? Puzzled I walked on.

At the end of the boardwalk I was pleased to see the sculptures and bench undamaged and litter free. I was also pleased to reach a patch of shade. So far almost all my walk had been in hot sunshine and my head, which had started out feeling filled with cotton wool, was now aching. In fact it was becoming clear my lurgie was certainly not paranoia. The bench provided a convenient resting place but I hadn’t brought any water or snacks with me and, despite the rest, my head didn’t feel any better for the shade.

If anything I felt worse for stopping and it’s took a great deal of effort to peel myself off the bench and carry on up the slope to Horseshoe Bridge. The climb took all the strength my legs had left and I was glad to reach the top. By now I’d walked two miles, more or less, not far on an ordinary day, but my legs felt more like they’d walked twenty two. How I was going to walk the two miles home was beyond me.

One foot slowly in front of the other took me off the bridge towards the Millenium Flats, past the scrubby area that was unaccountably cleared a few years back. At the time I thought the shrubs and trees would soon grow back but they haven’t. Today I noticed a small white gate I’m sure was never there before. Where it came from and why is a mystery as there is no path here, at least not one that leads anywhere. It all seemed very strange but, by now, my brain was feeling too addled to really think about it.

So I took my usual route thinking to go through the blue gate and walk down the steps past the moorings as I had so many times before. When I got to the gate though, there was a large and rather emphatic yellow sign. ‘Due to the antisocial behaviour in the past few months this private walkway is no longer open for public access.’ Sure enough, there was a lock on the gate and no way through. This was more than a little disappointing. The path runs at the bottom of a steep, grassy slope with an impenetrable fence at the top. It provides no access to the flats but does make a lovely walkway along the riverbank. At least it did. The owners of the flats, secure behind their high fences and locked gates, have made sure no one else can enjoy it any more.

Feeling rather cross and more than a little uncharitable towards the people living in the flats, I walked the long way round to the slipway. The extra steps didn’t make me feel any better but at least I’d almost reached my goal. My friend lives in one of the sweet little houses on the riverbank. She has enviable views and even a little jetty to sit on to watch the sun setting. She is a nurse with a generous spirit and more than deserves her riverside views.

Today, as I’d expected, she was at work so there was no chance to rest or sit and chat. The parcel, a little hat I’d made for her, fit easily through her letterbox. My mission was completed but I still had a couple of miles to walk to get home. They were not easy miles. My head and my legs protested all the way. Twice I had to stop and sit down. Once on a bench and once on some steps. The lurgie I’d been trying to ignore was getting worse with every step and, by the time I reached the main road again I was barely able to stay on my feet. With the world swimming in front of my eyes I managed to cross the road and walk the last steps to my own front door. It seems, no matter how hard you try, you can’t out run the germs or the changes.

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Tales from the photo archive summer

For more than a month Commando had been sidelined by illness. It was June before he was finally allowed to put his trainers on and test his legs. He still was far from well but seeing him cross the finish line at Southampton parkrun on 10 June felt like a huge leap in the right direction. Continue reading Tales from the photo archive summer

German germs and black swan cygnets – first published 24 September 2014

Holidays always seem too short and our German adventure in September 2014 was no exception. When I left work the Wednesday before we went to Cologne the prospect of thirteen whole days off seemed like a long time. As with all holidays it flew by though. When we got back home, in the early hours of Tuesday morning I had great plans about what I was going to do over the following week. What I didn’t count on were the German germs I picked up courtesy of Easyjet’s recycled air. Continue reading German germs and black swan cygnets – first published 24 September 2014

Rattling, and running the Lordshill 10k

25 June 2017

Commando took the first of his drugs on Friday. Six little methotrexate tablets, two doxycycline and one hydroxychloroquine. He ran parkrun on Saturday although he felt slightly nauseous, probably from the methotrexate. Those running nearby may have wondered what all the rattling was. Today he took the first of the folic acid tablets, along with the daily doxy and hydroxy (we are even beginning to give them pet names). Tomorrow he is going back to work. The wisdom of running a 10k today was always questionable but he promised he would just pootle round. I didn’t believe him but he never listens to me anyway so all I could do was go along.  Continue reading Rattling, and running the Lordshill 10k

Good news, bad news and a diagnosis, sort of…

22 June 2017

It’s been a tough couple of months but our living in limbo came to a resounding halt this evening when Commando visited the Consultant Rheumatologist. There was bad news, confusing news and good news. The blood test results were in and there were answers, even if they weren’t exactly conclusive. There were also solutions. Neither was quite what we wanted to hear but knowledge is power I suppose. Continue reading Good news, bad news and a diagnosis, sort of…

Summer tales from the Old Cemetery

13 June 2017

For Commando, one of the hardest things about being ill, apart from the uncertainty about what is wrong with him, has been not being able to run. The consultant Rheumatologist he saw last week didn’t give him a definitive diagnosis but he did give him a steroid injection and told him he could begin to run again as long as his legs were pain free. In fact, he said exercise was a good thing. On Saturday he ambled around parkrun. It was far slower than he’d have liked but it was a run. This evening he decided to go to the Common and have another run on his own. CJ and I went along for a walk as there have been precious few of those lately. Continue reading Summer tales from the Old Cemetery

Let’s go to Huntsville

11 May 2017

My twisted body clock woke me at quarter to five this morning. It was quarter to two in Vancouver and quarter to ten in England so goodness only knows what time zone my brain was in. The merest hint of pink was just beginning to show above the tree line outside. I took a quick photo and then tried to go back to sleep. Half an hour later I gave up. My body was determined it was morning so I might as well listen. The sky was a little lighter now, the line of pink rising up to meet the midnight blue sky.  Continue reading Let’s go to Huntsville

A little tour of Muskoka

10 May 2017

After a wonderful week in Vancouver we’d had a nightmare forty eight hours. When I woke at five fifteen this morning though, the view from my window chased the nightmare away immediately. A peachy glow lit the sky above the pines on the opposite side of Gull Lake, fading to a deep midnight blue. The trees outside our window were silhouetted against the glorious pre dawn sky and the lake gently rippled by the breeze. Commando was still sleeping but I sneaked out of bed and took a photo through the window then I lay watching the sun slowly rise. After a while I pulled on a jumper and crept out onto the balcony. Sometimes jet lag has its advantages and waking to watch the sun come up is up is one of them. Continue reading A little tour of Muskoka

Travel, Toronto and a comedy of errors

9 May 2017

Today was mostly taken up with travelling. This morning Commando woke with swollen and painful hands and a feverish feeling. His leg was still hurting but with the help of the Tylenol, he was able to walk. It seemed to me to be the work of some kind of virus rather than anything to do with the trip in Stanley Park. He limped down to Starbucks for a breakfast of croissant and yogurt parfait. Later we took a taxi to the airport where we sat around waiting for our flight. All the while I was keeping a rather nervous eye on him. He hobbled onto the plane. Five hours later he hobbled back off again. Along the way we’d lost three hours to the time change but at least we hadn’t lost our luggage. We were back to the disoriented jet lag thing again though.  Continue reading Travel, Toronto and a comedy of errors

A very peculiar colour – first published 10 December 2013

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Early December 2013 and some kind of bug struck. Saturday morning saw me feeling tired, more tired than normal, I put it down to hefting all the boxes on Friday afternoon. By the time I came back from my jaunt up the Big Hill with CJ to get the food shopping, tiredness had become a vaguely sicky feeling. Somehow I managed to ignore it long enough to make the lasagne and the pizza topping for the week but after that I retired to the sofa and dozed the afternoon and evening away. I hardly ate a thing all day, couldn’t even bear the thought of food. It was very unlike me. Continue reading A very peculiar colour – first published 10 December 2013