Meditations of a midnight ambler Lloyd spencer

"Night is a world lit by itself" ― Antonio Porchia

“Night is a time of rigor, but also of mercy. There are truths which one can see only when it’s dark” ― Isaac Bashevis Singer

I need more of the night before I open eyes and heart to illumination. I must still grow in the dark like a root, not ready, not ready at all.” ― Denise Levertov

* * * * *

This is a record of night walking in the suburbs, and in the centre, of Leeds. These night walks were solitary. Most of them were undertaken around midnight. When my partner, Sara died on the last night of November 2015 it brought to end a decade during which I had been closely involved with two women, Ann and Sara, living with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Each lived actively and independently for six and a half years. (Ann died in November 2012). But for each of them the last year was the most difficult, and for me, the most demanding.

During 2015 I found myself getting very little opportunity for exercise. I was with Sara almost every day till well after 10pm. The same pattern was followed during the weeks of Sara's last stay in St. Gemma's Hospice. I would leave only after Sara had fallen asleep.

Another solitary visitor emerging from St. Gemma's Hospice, late Autumn 2015

There is always something poignant about walking away from a hospice. For most of the people it serves there is no easy exit.

Leaving St. Gemma's Hospice

So I developed the habit of taking a stroll -- with my camera -- late at night. Often around midnight. Usually this was a short walk in Headingley, setting off from my flat, along the dirt track (below) that leads from my front door.

The road the leads from my home
Further along the road behind my home

Opposite my front door

Hollin Lane, Headingley, looking down from the path to the neighbouring flats

A ginnel around the corner from my home. JaneHair has since been replaced by Bare café

Solitary rambling near my home in Headingley means that I end up taking photographs of the same scenes again and again. That is the beauty of a city, any city: it continually throws up new and unexpected perspectives.


“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” – Marc Riboud

Meadow Lane
Otley Road
Waiting for a taxi (Otley Road)
Outside the Three Horseshoes
Harrogate Road
Stainbeck Road
Stainbeck Road (and Scott Hall Road)
North Lane, Headingley
Lower Briggate
Off Call Lane
Looking down to Boar Lane
Inner Ring Road, Leeds
Resurfacing Monkbridge Road
The Three Horseshoes is my local.
Weetwood Avenue

About the title: I have not fixed on a title for this series / project yet. I would definitely have called it THE MIDNIGHT RAMBLER except that the Rolling Stones got their first. Their song with that title is a 'celebration' of the Boston Strangler and expresses a dark violence that is wholly foreign to my intentions here. It is worth thinking about that song and its implied threat. My midnight walks alone are more or less unthinkable for a woman on her own, unless she is walking a dog, like Ann with Bracken, her German Shepherd. Ann walked Bracken four times a day throughout her illness. When she decided Bracken would be better off with an owner in better health she selflessly gave him up. Ann's decline was rapid after that.

Cottage Road. Going home from the cinema.

Solitary walks, by day and by night, have become something of an addiction for me. But intense enjoyment of night is not a new thing. It goes right back to my childhood under an African sky. And from 2007 I spent two years photographing night life on the streets of Leeds in close collaboration with my colleague, Stephen ("Griff") Griffin. The button below activates a link to a website documenting that project.

In closing, I should just mention that during 2017 and 2018 my solitary walks have been undertaken mainly during the day, outdoors in the parks, woodlands and scrublands around Leeds.

In October 2015 I had a small exhibition of my 'ecological' photos in the Opposite Café. Chapel Allerton. At present I am also looking for a venue for my landscape and nature photographs for an exhibition in 2017. I have at least two different 'nature' projects that I will be pursuing throughout 2017.

Framed prints ready for my exhibition in the Opposite Café

Night Walks - Charles Dickens - Penguin Books, Great Ideas. (2010)

Night in the Big City: Paris, Berlin, London, 1840--1930 - Joachim Schlör. Reaktion Books. (1998, 2016)

Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London - Matthew Beaumont - Verso (2015, 2016)

Night Haunts: A journey through the London night - Sukhdev Sandhu - Verso (2006)

The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire - Walter Benjamin - Belknap/Harvard (2006)

Shelly - night makes 'a weird sound of its own stillness' (p.2 MB)

The nighttime city is another city. (p.3) Aragon 'night gives these absurd places a sense of not knowing their own identity'

'Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night', the poet Rupert Brooke once wrote. (p.8)


Copyright Lloyd Spencer

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