On New Year's Eve, I braved the gloomy rainscape to walk from Waterloo to Euston. Originally the intention had been to walk along the South Bank, but for some reason I changed tack and crossed the footbridge, peering over the edge at the skateboard graveyard that clutters one of the plinths, complete with a pair of Converse saucily draped by its laces over a support-wire.
From ther, I strolled up through Covent Garden and admired the topiary Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer with its lit-up lightbulb nose and scores of families photographing each other in front of it; up through Neal Street and its ever-changing shops, through Denmark Street for a gaze at the juicy and tempting guitars, and thence to Foyles where I bought a trashy novel and sat for a while in the cafe being glared at by young middle-class laptopsters who wanted my seat. Funny how snobbishness has come back into fashion, disguised as 'cool'. When I'm the target, I remain unmoved in the certain knowledge that a large proportion of them would not have dared to have the sort of life that I've had, and would probably run a million miles from real live and proper punk.
Oops... perilously close to a rant there! I've asked Martin to be on rant alert and warn me whenever I start to blast away on one on the phone, because recently I have noticed that ranting becomes more common the older one gets. I can't not get old, but I can decide not to become a pub bore (a non-pub pub bore who rarely goes to pubs).
So, after the caff, I walked up Tottenham Court Road, which was completely deserted for the time of year, and detoured into Paperchase, which has disappointingly lost its quirky department on the top floor that looked like an art college store. There had been stacks of peculiar fabric and all kinds of odd things but it's gone ordinary. Gone suburban.... gone coalition.
On to Euston, by now thronging with young people with suitcases and bedding rolls who must have been heading to see the New Year in with friends or relatives, and who were obviously very excited. 'Just wait till tomorrow morning', I thought nastily, remembering many hangovers in the past.
On New Year's Day, I spent ten hours marking. This wasn't the original intention, but it just took a very long time. I started at 9 and ended at 8.30 with a few short breaks, and I spent much of yesterday marking too. So today I am going to brave this afternoon's impending storm and take another urban stroll. It's a wonderful hobby, because you see so much that you don't see when you are focused on a destination rather than the experience of the walk itself. There are layers of experience to unravel: the number of times you may have passed down a certain street as a different person at a different time of your life. You realise just how temporary everything is, and that the moment belongs to you and you alone. You get a perspective on history and buildings and the way people regard themselves as important because they own things; the concept of dynasty becomes ridiculous and the quantity of rubbish, appalling.
You also get rosy cheeks.