To Wander

I no longer travel.

Some of my encounters with Newtonian Physics – especially gravity, mass, motion and in particular, very rapid deceleration (and let us not forget Time) – have rendered a resilient human body less a vehicle for the jaunts of an impetuous spirit, more a hammock for the sequential siestas of a broken imperative.

I no longer travel.

All too affordable aeroplanes available to everywhere and, unaffordable and unavailable trains to a diminishing clutch of unlovely nuclei have made the act of Travelling as attractive and satisfying as the little meals on plastic trays they serve up while you are in transit and the swollen feet that accompany the tee-shirts on the trip home

But there were joys to be had, as in life, from the journey itself rather than in the destination which is after all, the common one.

“Give to me the life I love, Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above And the byway nigh me. Bed in the bush with stars to see, Bread I dip in the river—There’s the life for a man like me, There’s the life for ever…” Listening just now to the striding, exciting setting by Vaughan Williams I was struck as I was in childhood, not just by the nigh-unsingable modulations, but by the word “Lave”.
Some write that it means ‘brook’ – if if it’s already going by me, why walk the extra mile to dip one’s bread in the river? – and etymologies variously give Lave as a noun referring to Remainder, the Residue, and thus the Rest of the folk past whom one would wander rather than have them, en masse, go by. My infant excursions into language saw a connection with water, plausibly as in laundry or lavatory, but would a poet, however romantic, recline and contemplate while such trundled by?
My conservative Uncle JW said it meant “those that are bathed” in contrast to the “great unwashed” wherein he lumped all those of the Travelling persuasion (including us; a calumny my papa resented, for – spartan that he was – he seized every opportunity to drench our nakedness in cold water, even at isolated village pumps)
Robert Louis Stevenson’s protagonist may also have washed, as he lived in the heyday of The Bummel, a leisurely walking tour far more gemütlich than today’s strenuous Hike and, he would have had access to public bath houses. The Corporation of Liverpool opened the first known warm fresh-water public wash house in May 1842.

Pictured: Contemporary Bummel: Nordic Walking at Devil’s Drop, entirely for pleasure, oil on canvas.