Walking the neighbourhood

Yesterday I went for a walk in my neighbourhood. Walking helps me clear the cobwebs, sort out a plot problem or just find a way forward in a scene. Walking is an oft-cited activity for writer’s block, and I can understand why.

Yesterday, I cut up a laneway to get into a street which finishes at the back of my house. I don’t often take this path because—er … dead end. Curiosity, or maybe nosiness is a better word choice, drove this first part of my route because a neighbour has demolished the back half of their house. We’ve been promised six months of renovations, and I wanted to get a sense of the scale of the demolition. The front of the house is neatly enclosed with those builders’ hoardings specified by law for safety reasons. Sadly, the view from the back street was pretty limited. They’ve clear felled to the roof line, but I could only see a few metres into the shell of the building.

So, I continued on my walk, cutting down a street I’ve walked many times before. This time, gates slid open in time for me to see the back of a two-storey house. I had time to think—“Wow! What a stunning renovation—a domed glass room leading to the garden”—when a hand was raised in hello. The owners are acquaintances I’ve seen around the neighbourhood for years. I knew they lived a few streets away; I didn’t know their house was a mansion by my standards, filling a space that in this area would often have two houses.

That’s one of the things I love about walking—the unexpected discovery, the entirely new story I can weave around the house and its residents, the realisation that I know almost nothing about people I see regularly. The discovery is like a pebble in a pond, with ripples spreading endlessly. If I didn’t know a simple fact like their house stretched from one street to another, what else don’t I know about them, or in fact what do I know about anyone?

What I don’t know is the starting point of a story. Maybe that house will find its way into a future book … or the owner will … or the owner’s dog?

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