‘Stand here, and listen for a while.’
We were weaving between streams of human traffic, searching for pockets of space where we could pause and listen. Gathering beneath trees or flattening ourselves along pavements, we plugged into Imogen Hermes Gowar’s spellbinding Eleanor, a journey into the enigmatic, half-remembered life of Lady Eleanor Talbot. It is easy to be pulled in. As I listened to Gowar’s crisp, disembodied voice telling me about ghosts and places in Norwich where Eleanor might have been, I imagined Eleanor pacing along the dappled streets; tethered not only by the presence of her bones in the earth, wherever they may be, but by the invocation of her spirit by our collective memory.
After months spent in Covid-19 lockdown, strolling through sunny Norwich with friends, whom I had not seen in weeks, gave the walk an added piquancy. I thought about Eleanor’s life, as a woman surrounded by powerful men, and wondered if she had felt locked in too, dreaming of an escape by boat along the River Wensum.
We were nearly at the end of the walk when we realised that our phones were almost out of battery. ‘We’ll finish the walk another day,’ my friends said, nudging me along to the pub instead. How odd, I thought, that ghosts could be dismissed with the click of a button. But I was still haunted by Eleanor’s story – as we waited to cross at a junction, I remembered how Gowar had said that somewhere in Norwich a river, once exposed, now flows underground; an analogue to the unending flow of time. So I stood there, as my friends’ chatter rang in the warm May air, and listened for a while.