I’ve been very good with my walks, and I’m really enjoying them. I’m not a morning person, and when I’m working on my own timetable, it is even worse. I rarely make a start on my many online jobs until at least 2:00 pm. I’m still without my car and the shop in my village closes at 8:00 pm and I’m finding it difficult to remember to get all my shopping done so early. Incidentally, just like you can still smoke in pubs in my village, you also don’t have to pay for plastic bags in shops here. It’s basically 2001. My aversion to mornings means that I rarely get out for my walk early. In fact in my two weeks of walking, I have yet to go out before 11:00 pm. The latest I’ve started a walk was 5:20 am.
Night walks are beautiful. Frost and dew glisten underfoot and stars twinkle above and the moon inspires and the silence is endless and no one is around to annoy you and you are the King of the World.
Of course I also have to admit that walking in the dark means that no one sees me and I’ve always been self-conscious about being seen exercising, imagining that passersby who see me walking say things to themselves like “Give it up Fatty, you’ll always be hideous.” or “He’s not walking, he’s waddling, because fat people don’t know how to exercise properly.” It’s not as if I never exercise publicly. I do. In 2012, I participated in races in public, I went to swimming lessons in a public pool, I was in a boxing club with a hundred students. And every single time I went to any of these things, I fought those voices of the imagined scornful observers. Every time it was a struggle. At some stage in my life, my subconscious learned that exercise is not the domain of the fat, that exercise is for thin and beautiful people and no matter how much logic I throw at my subconscious, it hasn’t changed. Of course, I know no one is judging me for walking; they’re too busy thinking about Hollyoaks or the ironing or why they don’t love their husband any more. They don’t care about me and my walks. Nonetheless, their imaginary voices boom in my brain. Add to that the fact that I feel more self-conscious leaving my house or being with people in general since my experiences in Vietnam and there are many reasons why I walk in the dark.
My village is an “estate village”. There are a few small housing estates built since the 1980s, but other than that, the village is basically one street of cottages at the end of the driveway of a large country manor, called a castle, one of the great houses of the former Anglo-Irish aristocracy. The castle is notable for one Wikipedia fact. It was in the grounds of this castle in 1911, that the grey squirrel was introduced to Ireland, when six pairs were given to the Earl of Granard as a wedding present. The castle is not only the seat of an Earldom, it even has its own airstrip (the glamour) and is closed to the public. Tonight, as I started out on my walk at about 1:15 am, I passed by the gates of the driveway of the castle. I could hear an alarm in the distance. It’s very, very quiet at 1:15 am on a Tuesday night in my little village, so the sound could have been coming from 10 miles away, but I decided in my head that it was coming from the castle. I imagined that it was on fire. In my head, I saw myself rushing through the estate gates, and heroically rescuing the viscount from the flames. My initial picture was of the viscount as a young man, who would instantly fall in love with me, his gallant rescuer, and make me his own and move me into his castle and we could live the life of luxury that I clearly deserve. Then my mind moved on and the young viscount transformed into an elderly, widowed and childless Earl. I would rescue him from the burning castle and ride with him in the ambulance to Mullingar Regional Hospital. He would suffer from smoke inhalation, but in his final days in hospital, I would teach him to laugh again, like he used to when he was young and life was full of hope, bringing some glitz and glamour to his sunset days. He would even tell me that he once loved a young friend of his back in his airforce days, called Charles, but times were different then, not like for me. Then he would die, his hand in mine, leaving me his castle.
At first I imagined moving into the castle, interviewing butlers and throwing Gatsby-esque parties, being written about by Gavin Lambe-Murphy and appearing on the front of Hello Magazine. Then I decided that I would put my great wealth to good use. I would make a youth centre from the castle and its grounds. Troubled teens could grow vegetables in the gardens, I could put in a pottery kiln and a music studio and sports facilities and hire some counsellors and social workers. It would be the best youth centre in the midlands and I would change lives.
Or should I write a TV show about a youth centre in a castle? It would have lots of drama, with drugs and violence, but heartwarming tales of first love and reconciliations with recovering alcoholic parents and also comedy as young kids had to use garden implements instead of smart phones, and learn the meaning of respect and hard work. And of course, all of this would be presided over by the warm and nurturing owner of the castle, a wise and gentle authority, who never stopped believing in the kids (me, played in my head by Whoopi Goldberg). Who wouldn’t want to watch that?
Of course, by the time my brain had run through these various fantasies, the alarm had stopped.
I walked by an empty shopfront in the village. I think it used to be the greengrocers. It hasn’t been occupied for some time, and today a “To Let” sign has gone up. How much could it cost to rent here? Maybe I should open my own shop. I could sell fabulous little knick-knacks, sparkly things covered in rhinestones and sequins. That would be more enjoyable than my online jobs, wouldn’t it? And I could read and write as I sat behind the till and locals, who owned nothing glittery or sequinned could call in and I could add colour to their lives, just like Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo did in the little town they ended up in in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for everything, Julie Newmar”.
My routes while I walk tend to be a bit limited. Tonight’s was an hour and a half going round and round the main street and the same three housing estates. I’m sure there are many beautiful places to walk near here, but at night-time I’m trying to stick to places with paved footpaths and street lighting. Where I’m from, housing estates end in other estates, or in streets, but here, the houses peter out and there are farms, with cows and everything. I never noticed the cows making any noises before, but tonight, as I walked through the same estate for the fourth time, I heard a moo. It was the saddest moo I’d ever heard. Was the cow missing her bull? I started mumbling in my head and soon I was writing a poem in my head about a man waking up i the middle of the night and hearing the mournful moo, and pondering the meaninglessness of everything and joining the cow in a mournful moo of his own. It warped from tragic to comic and in the end I was writing a children’s poem in my head about Mindy, the cow with the miserable moo.
Children’s writing is irresistible. Anything can be a children’s story.
At 1:41, while still walking, I got out my phone and updated my Facebook:
Children’s book idea: “Scampire: the vampire who is also a roguish scamp”. When it’s made into a musical, Olly Murs can play the lead role.
I imagined the cheeky chappy lovable bloodsucker, but it just didn’t seem child-friendly enough. 24 minutes later, now walking around a different housing estate, at 2:05, I commented on my own post:
Or maybe he should be an adorable puppy. Hmm.
It only took me until 2:10 to get to my next dilemma, and I posted:
Whose blood would an adorable puppy-vampire drink?
And answered my own question just a minute later:
Maybe he’d lick people’s necks, instead of biting.
Seven minutes later (2:17 am), having visualised the entire series of my bestselling children’s vampire puppy phenomenon, i laughed at myself and posted:
WITNESS THE CREATIVE JUICES. THEY FLOW.