Sunday, 19 April 2009

Finding my way

1. Start at the right-hand side of the train station, by the steps, facing the art centre. Here, turn right and walk to the end of the street.

11am outside Norwich station; instinctively I look to the right-hand side as though I had arrived by train, but all I find here is a a sea of bicycles and a smooth rising I begin this time looking towards the station. On the right this time is a gently sloping set of steps curving to the street below. This is my beginning!

In my view ahead is a huge weeping willow leaning over the river, a sea cadet's ship and, on the far bank, a hotel, a bridge and a pub with union jack bunting.

I ask a girl who passes me which way I would have to go to find an art centre. She replies, " I honestly don't know, but if it's anywhere, it would be that way." Her arm and pointing finger follow the line of the steps towards the bridge, I thank her and as she walks away up the steps I notice her jacket says "ONE" in bold block letters...I turn right and walk.

2. Then, pass the bush with berries on it and a sign of higher education.

At the end of the street, as if shouting at me, is a bush beaming with a bounty of flowers. Given the season I am sure this would have also had lots of berries in autumn.

As I photograph it and turn to look at the map beside it (to see if this could be a sign of higher education), a man enters my gaze. He says, "If you go across the bridge you can walk by the river, by all the boats I think you would really like it, it's a lovely walk." The man is about my age wearing all black with at least seven empty earring holes in his left ear. I thank him for the suggestion and take this to be the sign, since the map itself is lacking.

note: after this point I have several moments of doubt: Was this the sign? What does something need to be, to be higher education? Why on this landmark has my interpretive freedom deserted me? I begin to take three other routes each revealing a possibility but nothing that really answers my questions better than the man with his impromptu and instinctive idea for a walk I would enjoy.

3. Next, turn to your left follow the street towards the large building that might be a library.

A comparatively tall building with rows and rows of glass window catches my eye, I head towards it relieved to have made my move. I cross the street on to a triangular space where the two streets meet. A man sitting on a bench greets me as I pass. Through a "good morning" and smiles we share our pleasure in being out on this beautiful sunny day, his face wears the freckles of many days sat out in the sun. I move onto Rose Lane; my building reveals its self as 61-65 Imperial House, its windows on the ground floor are mirrored. With no view inside I move on.

4. Pass the bird house and a drawing in rust. At the junction look back the way you have come.

My quest for the bird house leads me on up the hill. As doubts creep in, a black bird and a thrush give me a clue. The thrush, complete with worm in its beak, flies into the undergrowth. I stop for a while to watch and listen on what I realize is a small park on the roof of a shopping centre-- 'the bird house.' Opposite the bird house is a curved wall with tall windows along it. Along from this I follow the metal railing expecting to find the drawing in rust. At its end I see "Rusty" has left his mark in bubble writing--my interpretive freedom is all of a sudden satisfied by this moment of synchronicity. I look behind and to see the view across the roundabout below all the way to the train station and the horizon hazy in the distance.

5. Walk towards the building with rainbow colours on it. When you reach it, turn right.

With no buildings that fit in view, I follow the direction suggested by a lady on her lunch break. She says I should try inside the shopping centre where there is a place for kids to paint pottery. I head in that direction, but on the way a rainbow finds me on the roof.

I turn right.

6. Continue for approximately 561 steps, or past 14 hazard signs, or until you hit the bench on your left. Here, follow the railing down.

52 steps +1st hazard sign... 86 steps + 2nd hazard signs... 160 + 3rd and 4th hazard signs... 220 steps +5th and 6th hazard signs

258 + 7th and 8th hazard signs... 341 +9th hazard signs... 370 + 10th hazard sign... 412 steps + 11th, 12th and 13th hazard signs... 435 + 14th hazard sign.

To my left is a bench filled with a family eating fish and chips from the market; polystyrene trays balanced in one hand. the black railing leads down an avenue of cherry trees beside the church, towards the fresh fish stalls of the market below.

7. Now step on to softer ground and head for the blue; keep straight seeing the sky touch down to meet you.

I hoped the softer ground would be the green grass bathed in sunlight beside me, but the patch is surrounded by the railing and the gate is padlocked in a way which feels as though this is a space where I could never feel the softer ground beneath my feet. I let my desire for a picturesque end go, and continue down finding the softer ground at the foot of a tree. At it's base is a metre of what looks like glued together gravel.

Ahead of me is the blue of WHSmiths. I am really having to swallow hard to allow this to be my end point. I head straight and inside, becoming increasingly doubtful of seeing the sky come down to meet me, but as I move further into the store, daylight breaks through the stairwell. I climb four steps into the light, looking up I see a huge glass ceiling which points down onto the stairs in a V.

The sky above is blue with wisps of cloud revealing the crisp spring wind. I stay a while listening to the muffled sounds of the tills beeping and the shuffle of plastic wrapping. One girl struggles to re-shelve purple protractors; eventually giving up as two fall to the floor. Another customer picks them up, whilst collecting supplies for her own daughters pencil case.

One last look to the sky- I have drawn it on a post card that I will send to Laura.

This is where the sky touched down to meet me in Norwich.

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