I first published this post on 28th February 2007, soon after starting a seven-month stint working full-time in a computer company I called “MaxiRam”, in “Babylon Town”. It wouldn’t matter to give real names now, but the pseudonyms were a piece with the nicknames I gave to the people I worked with there: Al Pacino, Ludwig van Beethoven, Kevin, EvilC, Colin Heffer, whose real names I’ve long forgotten, with one exception. I signed my posts with a made-up name too, I thought it was Yves Rochereau, taken from an album of African music, but it was the singer Tabu Ley Rochereau, commemorated in the URL of this WordPress site. I realized it was time to change from Yves to Vincent when I realized that Paul Maurice Martin ‡ thought I was a girl §.
Changing the blog title to A Wayfarer’s Notes marked a new awareness of the power of aimless walking in my life: a benign escape from mundane to transcendental. I submitted to this miracle every lunchtime break from work; used it as a standard of wholeness and sanity to evaluate office interactions, and find them wanting. The open air reminded me I was free. Walking was the symbol of freedom. I could go everywhere unhindered. There were footpaths and stiles.There was even some recreation land for the amenity of Hewlett-Packard employees at Amen Corner on either side of Beehive Lane, reached from MaxiRam across Peacock Farm and over a little footbridge decorated with delightful graffiti. If you carried on you were in Nike territory. I’ve only just realized that the skating rink, ski slopes, hotel and other buildings concentrated in this outlying part of Babylon Town were developed by an Englishman, John Nike, who had nothing to do with the Nike brand of footwear.
With my head in the clouds, intoxicated by such magical places within easy walking distance, I treated my office job as a purely technical task; at which I was slow and in various ways out of date. I guess I was seen as socially disdainful, but that wasn’t exactly true. I disdained the politics and the pulling of rank. I was ready for I-Thou encounters regardless of status, but those who’d play that game were very few. There is more to add by way of introduction to this Babylon Town phase of my life. But for now here’s that post as promised
The idea came to me whilst walking, as all my ideas seem to do. Actually they don’t start as ideas at all. They are impulses or feelings. The conversion into words is a mysterious process, and none more than yesterday.
My daily sojourn in Babylon Town, code name for where I work, is beginning to feel less like exile, and more like just another part of the planet where I feel at home. This is a far cry from how I felt about it on first arriving, as this blog faithfully records, for a blog has this virtue, that whether fact or fiction, it has chronological integrity; I mean it says what was felt at the time.
My midday walks have lately been little more than a necessity for health and sanity, a break from the incessant demands of MaxiRam, my temporary employer. But yesterday something changed that prompted this blog, formerly As in Life . . . to change its name.*
Walking has defined my life from an early age. My mother used to tell a story of how she left me at two years old in a playpen in front of the bungalow in Bassendean where we had our lodgings at the time. When she returned from her errands, I was gone, and mysteriously so was the playpen, designed to fence me in and keep me safe. I was seen by passers-by using it as a walking-frame, determinedly pushing it before me as I aimed straight for the Swan River, which in that Perth suburb was meandering and reedy.
In its every square yard, Babylon Town bears evidence of the planner’s zeal, for its shape was determined on the drawing board, rather than evolving chaotically like most other towns in England. The planners clearly envisaged that the motor-car would be the residents’ main means of transport and the lorry, symbol of industry, the most respected. Overlaid on a structure of fast roads are more recent politically correct cycle-paths weaving through underpasses and across hinterlands of grass.
But where do the people walk? Yesterday in the drizzle I stepped carefully on rain-sodden narrow grass verges, recently disturbed by molehills, and wandered at random till I discovered an underbelly of Babylon Town: a deserted park and lakes and managed wild-life habitats and crumbling steps and piazzas and walls of graffiti—much-needed decoration in some desolate corners. I was glad to see the evidence of humanity, however scruffy, overlaying the tidy intellect of town planners, however well-meaning.
The beauty of walking is that you can get almost everywhere. Most of the “Keep Out” signs apply to motorists. What greater joy than to roam the earth on foot?
I immediately think of those denied this freedom, including my own self for more than ten years, till recently: those in jail, or so immobile they need to be turned to prevent bedsores; or those shut away in a house because their parents are ashamed of their deformities and handicaps.† To be sad on their behalf won’t help them. I’ll walk joyfully and be mindful of all my brothers and sisters especially Paul.‡
Postscript 30th January, 2018:
* changed its name to A Wayfarer’s Notes
† as I saw in Sabah, Malaysia, sometime in the Nineties, visiting some relatives of my then wife.
‡ Author of Original Faith, who had been confined to his room with a mysterious illness from the age of 23. Before that, he’d been a lover of wandering & jogging out of doors, and recalled these experiences in his book. His illness got worse. Around 2011 he reported that his blog with all its comments had been accidentally overwritten, though parts of it can still be traced on the Internet Archive. Today I trawl the Net to discover a report of his death.
When I started this blog in 2006, he was the first reader to comment. He also appended a comment to this post.
§ This is what he wrote in a comment on 26th March 2007:
Well, all I can say is I’m glad I didn’t fall in love, LOL! “Yves” is not a common name here in the States. I guess it brought to mind Yvonne if that’s how you spell it—and Eve, which are both female names, not too common either.
I had one other experience like this but it was set to rights faster. I had a physical therapy appointment with a therapist named “Jan” who turned out to be about six foot three & probably around 230 pounds. Pronounced “Yahn” in the Netherlands and the equivalent of John…