I’m heading into York soon to catch a train north. The sound of suitcase wheels clicking over the cobbles will forever remind me of this city. I suppose it is the combination of the place having so many visitors, and a city centre that is largely closed to traffic, thus forcing people down the two-legged option. Walking through somewhere like York, though, there is a problem: there is so much to look at and take in that one tends to look up, gaze around and then lose concentration along with one’s footing on the uneven flag stones, trip and fall. I have seen it happen so many times here on beautiful streets like Stonegate hedged by medieval buildings, the shops slumped like drunks in their unsteady gait leaning into the streets. I have even experienced it first hand walking alongside someone when they missed a step up and went down like a skittle. We adjourned to the aptly named pub ‘House of Trembling Madness’ for her chosen equivalent of smelling salts – a hot whiskey! All the same, it is hard to favour the placement of one’s feet when there is so much to see by looking up.
So, that is the conundrum: how do we look up and take it all in, while at the same time not being distracted into becoming a ‘C’ list gymnast, splayed on the ground following an inelegant dismount from the parallel bars? One can often hear parents yelling ahead to their runaway children, advisory shouts to watch where they are going. Kids are closer to the ground, though, and youthful barrelling tends to be much less damaging than when you get older. If it weren’t so darn cold then one could stop and sit for a while, watch and take it all in for a stationary position. But, short of wearing one of those duvet coats, this the weather to keep moving, and so we have to perfect the look-while-you-walk skill – the equivalent patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time! Then again, it has been known that a little distraction resulting in a tumble to earth isn’t always a bad thing, rather it can command unexpected but welcome attention. I’ll leave you with a song from home that can either act as a warning or a recommendation as to how you proceed today.
Kitty of Coleraine (traditional Irish song)
As beautiful Kitty one morning was tripping,
With a pitcher of milk from the fair of Coleraine,
When she saw him she stumbled, the pitcher it tumbled,
And all the sweet buttermilk watered the plain.
Oh! What shall I do now, ’twas looking at you now,
Sure, sure, such a pitcher I’ll ne’er meet again.
‘Twas the pride of my dairy, Oh, Barney McCleary,
You’re sent as a plague on the girls of Coleraine.
He sat down beside her and gently did chide her,
That such a misfortune should give her such pain.
A kiss then he gave her, and before he did leave her,
She vowed for such pleasure, she’d break it again.
‘Twas haymaking season, I can’t tell the reason,
Misfortune will never come single ’tis plain,
For very soon after poor Kitty’s disaster,
The divil a pitcher was whole in Coleraine.