“Off my doorstep straight into the sunshine
Walking west and following the coastline
Looking for a sea change”
(The End of the Movie – Stornoway)
I’ve always been a fan of walking. In Leeds, I didn’t really mind the half an hour walk from my little ‘slug palace’ house into the centre of town (if it wasn’t raining). Here in Molfetta, the afternoons are at my disposal and sometimes to break the post-lunch lull, I go down to the seafront for a long walk and have a tour of the town.
The fresh air really does wonders for you if you’re so sick of the Victorians that you’re about to throw your laptop against the wall. Or if you’ve just tried to repair a jumper and accidentally cut some of your hair off while trimming the thread (me, yesterday). The January weather here in Molfetta is extremely mild this year, everyone tells me in consternation. Apparently this means the early arrival of mosquitoes and a threat to plant life. If I look at it selfishly though, I do not miss feeling like my nose is about to fall off. The icy winds and rain of Leeds are a distant memory: I can amble along, kept at a perfect temperature by my duffel coat.
Walking is the best way to appreciate a place. When I visited Amsterdam, I went everywhere on foot, fuelled by fun museum trips and bacon/banana pancakes. When I go to London, I’d rather wander from Seven Dials to Leicester Square and across the bridge to Waterloo station than be packed in the Tube against a stranger’s armpit, like a sheep or a sardine. When Mum and Izzy visited Molfetta, I dragged them round the whole town in the heat, prompting complaints that I was walking too fast on my legs of steel.
It’s the same for Molfetta. To be fair, I wouldn’t know where to start with getting a bus but I’d rather walk anyway. I love pottering in the streets among the green shutters, seeing people out and about in the morning, posting their letters and buying their fresh vegetables. I weave my way down to the seafront and sit on this particular bench I’ve adopted for my purposes. I can just sit and stare at the sea, for ages, without even doing anything. People pass me by, sometimes remarking that it’s a bit ‘freschetto’ (which translates as ‘girl, it’s cold, what you doing?’) and sometimes just staring at me like they’re trying to read my odd English mind. These people have probably lived here all their lives and forget how pretty the cathedral is on a sunny blue morning or how pleasant it is to watch the pink sunset crawl further towards the horizon. I sit alone, but I’m not lonely because there are fishermen around and an old lady who leaves food out for strays.
Taking walks like these is a good way to gather your thoughts. I sometimes listen to ‘sea’ themed music and occasionally read my book. Looking at the sea also makes me think about other shores and other places where I might end up in the future, and about my friends and family in distant countries. I do sometimes feel sad without them for a moment, but I know they are happy wherever they are, in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Canada or the USA.
I make my way home when I realise my fingers are too cold to bend properly, and by that time it’s usually gone dark. I’m safe but occasionally a bit jumpy when I encounter large barking dogs or long shadows. Today a cat popped its head out of a bush with a tiny ‘miaow’ and I jumped a mile. You’ve gotta watch out for those cats.