This is a quiet trip to London. I head towards the local for a pint or the high road for a coffee. Sometimes a milkshake.
The walk to the high road brings me across the lawn of a small park. It's sort of a short cut. Regardless of whether it saves time, it certainly increases the pleasure of the walk. More often than not there's a dog or two enjoying a stroll.
Sometimes it's the chows. One of my neighbours keeps them, and has for the twenty years my family's lived around here. They're bear-like, with improbably fluffy fur and folded faces. Sadly they're short lived. I've seen perhaps three generations of them in my time here. He always keeps pairs. The current are golden and a lighter shade that could almost be platinum. The first pair I knew were black and golden. There's something regal about their appearance. The buoyancy of their fur should be ridiculous; it looks as though they've just come out of a tumble drier. Instead they affect a sense of the regal, a degree of nobility. Perhaps it's their posture, they always seem to walk with their head up, looking forward. Even lying down, they hold their heads to attention, their wizened faces encircled by a mane that spreads back to cover their entire body.
I cannot help smiling every time I see them. They, like the park itself, improve the walk.
Further along I check the menus in the windows of the restaurants I pass. Sometimes they've changed, a seasonal specialty appearing. New season lamb seems popular at the moment, and the first of year's wild mushrooms find themselves on the plate. My mouth waters and I move on.
Every other walker seems to be pushing a stroller. Young, fashionable - often in groups of two or three they walk and talk and shop. Mostly ladies, but occasionally it's (I assume) the dad.
I wander by the bookstore and try to find Boswell. They don't have it. They've recently refurbished and it's too bright. The natural light seems out of place in a bookshop. It's like a Gap, or some such place. I always think of bookshops as sanctuaries. A place to hide from the outside, to lose yourself. One of the few places you can browse and feel no guilt about walking away empty-handed. Light plays a part in that. Dark corners, the lower shelves hiding an obscure volume where you can disappear with the tomes surrounding you. The omnipresence of daylight hinders that; obscures the sanctuary.
It works. I buy three books.
Three miles away the government reels from the results of an election four hundred miles away. I find it amusing; less a vote for an independent Scotland and more a vote for something different from the norm. A vote against, rather than a vote for. It's not a great comment on the state of any republic, constitutional monarchy or not. But I think that's way of things at the moment.
I stroll from the bookshop to the coffee shop. Instead of a latté, I buy a chocolate milkshake. I slurp the straw and start the walk back home. A bit of a different route, to see some different menus and drool at different dishes.
Still the park though, and still a smile at the chows.