It’s raining today, and I am struck by two quite unexpected pangs of nostalgia.
The first is of navigating Milton Keynes by bike along its infamous ‘Redway’ cycle/pedestrian routes. When I lived in MK, those routes unlocked the city for me in a way I’ve not experienced living anywhere else.
Ignoring the inviting country lanes around MK, the Redways themselves offered me their own invitation to follow them from A to B, avoiding as they do any need to cycle on roads. They occasionally led me to visit corners of MK’s sprawling suburbs purely because the paths led there. I miss that sense of having a network of safe and ridable paths at my disposal.
I’m not sure why a rainy day makes me nostalgic for the Redways. But perhaps it’s that I often pedalled those paths in mist or mizzle or otherwise inclement weather, emerging from dripping underpasses.
The other strange pang of nostalgia I feel is for Manchester’s rain-slicked pavements.
It’s a cliche to talk of Manchester as a rainy city. Having lived there for a number of years, I have as many sunny memories as rainy. Probably I just cooped myself up indoors on the rainier days. But sometimes I’d maraud around those wet streets, often with a camera in hand, or I’d be compelled to take myself from Rusholme up Oxford Road to uni.
A very distinct memory is one of having sheltered in the university library between lectures before heading down the road to the RNCM – the Royal Northern College of Music – to sit in their theatre and watch an orchestra perform one of their free lunchtime concerts.
The abiding memory of Manchester’s streets – rainy or not – is that of a network of places I could visit: sanctuaries for every mood, or weather condition, or time of day.
I’m not sure what’s led my brain from watching the rain fall outside to those two quite distinct memories. But the common theme is freedom. Freedom to go as I please down known pathways to safe havens or new places to explore.
And so it’s probably not actually the rain that’s triggered this nostalgia – it’s the current lockdown restrictions. And as I realise that, I suddenly feel a new pang – one of guilt. I must remind myself that lockdown has not been so very cruel to me. It is long, and it is hard. But it could be so much worse. Watching the robins outside gives me so much pleasure, whatever the weather. And so when I go out for a lunchtime run later – probably in the rain – I will try to enjoy it as much as I can.