Thursday, 12 October 2006

Down in the Valley

I wonder if it's possible to write and paint? For me, I mean. I'm fully aware that there are painters who write. And there are writers who paint. There are even painters who write on their paintings. But it seems that the only time I'm visited by the writing muse is when I'm stuck with my painting.

Or when I'm in something of a depression.

Which tends to be the same thing.

I went for a walk on the Valley yesterday. As a kid, I used to love the Valley. I'd cycle there with my buddies and we'd play all day in the woods, drinking Tizer and making useless clay lamps out of the mud we'd dig up from the river bank. I don't think you can get at the river now; it's been culverted in. And there's not much left of the woods either. Cut down to make room for more offices and factory units. But that's OK really; it's what the Valley is for, and if it makes for more jobs, then who am I to complain?

I still like walking on the Valley, though. Despite there being fewer areas of woodland, there are still open fields and every Avenue is filled with trees and bushes. These are usually kept trimmed a bit, but still spill out onto the pavements. And curiously, it's pretty quiet.

A dual carriageway runs down the middle and this is always full of cars, lorries and buses rushing about their business, but the other Avenues are generally rather quiet. I suppose because everyone's at work. Except me, the lone pedestrian.

So it's a little like walking in countryside which has been invaded by the city. Or in a city which has been invaded by the countryside. I guess it's one of those curious non-places that modern civilisation tends to produce, such as airports and shopping malls, but this one is much nicer than those.

The Valley teems with wildlife. Every bush twitters with sparrows and there are innumerable blackbirds flitting silently from tree to tree, or shrieking at everyone and everything. Earlier this year (or maybe it was late last year - pleasant memories seem to flow together now into a sun-filled whole) Patsy123 and I walked on the Valley and saw a family of rabbits sitting about in the late rays of a setting sun. As we approached, they scampered off to the safety of a huge clump of overgrown shrubs by the side of their field.

But why was I on the Valley yesterday? It was a fairly miserable day, grey and misty with occasional showers, and I was somewhat grey and miserable myself. I'd decided to go there to see what Borders might have in stock (did I mention that, in addition to offices and factory units, there's also a Retail Park?) My curiosity had been piqued by mention in a recent blog of a book by Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. I thought it might prove interesting and/or useful.

In the event, I found I wasn't in the mood for the Tolle book, but I spent some time leafing through some other self-help books. Nowhere near as much time as the guy who slid a big illustrated copy of The Karma Sutra off the shelf and sat himself down at a table in the corner with it. He was still there when I left, slowly turning the pages. I'd like to think his wife or girlfriend might be in for a good time later that night, but somehow I doubt it.

Mostly I was fascinated by books about organisational strategies and time management which seemed to suggest a way out of my present malaise, but in the end I didn't buy anything. Maybe I'll go look again. Or maybe I'll just shake myself up and get on with things.

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