online: 26 december 2006
modified: 26 december 2006

26 december 2006 walking after dreaming

15:04 Sandy Heath... bare trees against pale grey sky...three people pass by, one carrying a newborn baby... the air is cold and still... four more people pass, one looks at me curiously (probably because i am writing on a handheld computer)... they look over-adapted to indoor life (walking cautiously as if out of practice)... but perhaps we are all indoor creatures now...

...i get up to look at some exceptionally red leaves and notice that my own steps are rather cautious and irregular, just after sitting... and now some younger people walk by - their legs and arms move easily and with confidence... the red leaves came loose when i touched them and so i put them in my pocket to dry between folded papers... (they are now being pressed by the weight of several history books)...

i stopped to look at a pond that was probably a sand pit... the water surface is mirror-like today, the only disturbance is from occasional bubbles (of marsh gas, perhaps)... several mature oaks are growing in the water so that it looks like an ancient flood... the whole forest looks somewhat deadly today with bare trees and sandy ground without undergrowth... i walk away from the black water towards a dry path between gorse bushes, i feel some ease returning to my limbs... and recall a stout man who was barely able to walk up a short slope towards a woman who awaited him at the top... i said hello to both and they seemed surprised that i did...

...i come unexpectedly to 'Mr Pitt's Garden': a brick archway with flanking walls enclosed in a newly fenced square of ground... one wall is tipped over at a slight angle by the growth of a large beech tree... i couldn't help laughing at the sight of this useless, broken, but religiously preserved relic...

...then i came to a small modern mansion on the gatepost of which is a circular plaque:
1708 - 1778
lived in a house
on this site
This was 'The Elder Pitt', whose son, 'Pitt the Younger', was also Prime Minister. The American city Pittsburg is named after The Elder.

i am very contented today, no doubt by this walk (indecipherable typing: rom ons ralf ded tyinc tp afthkr - i was typing half blinded by fading light)... (the walk has cheered me after a disturbing dream)...

...just now i'm at the lookout seat where a small child is screeching and screeching to the amusement of some tolerant or indulgent adults one of whom is joining in its game...

...and now i go down 'the thirty-nine steps'*...

*yes there are exactly 39, after the spy novel by John Buchan, but in the story the steps were not on Hampstead Heath but on the Kent coast. However, Gospel Oak, which is close to the heath, is the clue to another Buchan novel The Three Hostages... i read these books when i was a schoolboy... the bottom of the steps i see a man and a woman trying to climb the locked gate of a nearby park.... as if in a thriller, i go to their rescue and tell them that the main gate is probably still open and off they go, unsuspiciously, not taking me for an enemy spy!... (it's not like me to write this, what's coming over me today?)

...soon after i walk to another lookout point... in the mist i can't see beyond a mile or so (two kilometres) but i'm very glad to see city lights in the distance and to realise that this walk has broken my fright on waking from a bad dream... if that is what it was, perhaps it was a timely signal...

...and i realise now that, at last, i am beginning to like this northwest side of the heath perhaps more than i did the southern side (on which i walked for 16 years)... perhaps William Pitt and John Buchan are playing some part in this change, though normally i have nothing to do with either...

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