Night walks

There are people in the distance. For a few seconds I can’t tell which direction they’re walking in — towards me or away. I’m often the first to cross the road to avoid proximity. If we’re going in the same direction and I begin to catch up with them, I’ll slow down. Not necessarily because of Covid; I just don’t want to be seen when I’m on my night walks.

Every night after work I pound the pavements in my bubble in north London like a flâneur. Work tends to finish around midnight. This is my latest lockdown obsession

Sometimes I change the route, discover a new street, a house for sale, a dead end. I watch the empty Tube train going over the bridge (the Northern line is the loudest). I’m followed by a friendly fox. I pick up the pace when it’s uphill, I slow it down when it gets too hot under my coat. I put my head down when cars approach. I never look at my phone.

I see the allotments with waiting lists that go on for years. I see the stained glass windows, the front doors, and the houses owned by other people.

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Walk of life

A few months after moving into our house in north London, I stumbled upon the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. It was a rainy Monday. I don’t mind the rain, I welcome it. It makes for a quieter walk, and when I do cross paths with other walkers they tend to be alone like me.

Recently I took two friends on the journey, and when it started to rain they wanted to get the bus home. I wasn’t happy.

It was a similarly wet day when I set out on my walk yesterday, alone again. The Dollis Valley Greenwalk winds from Mill Hill through Barnet to the Hampstead Heath Extension. I join the ten-mile trail in Finchley and tend to continue into Hampstead Heath.

My walk takes in rivers, woodland, playgrounds, suburban gardens with summer houses, and a dual carriageway. I see how the other half live when I go down the mansion-lined street along the Hampstead Extension.

My legs are weary but these walks occupy my mind and remind me of what’s important. As England is placed into a new lockdown, it helps to see the wood for the trees.