I can’t remember when I started going for walks – often long walks – most nights. But when I lived in North Melbourne, until just over a year ago, I had several routes hard-wired into my memory, so that on setting out, it was just a matter of choosing which one to take.

The advantage of living where I lived then was that every direction I walked in offered a different atmosphere (although they all had in common an enveloping solitude).

If I headed south-east, I would skirt the edge of the CBD and the University – familiar territory, the most familiar in Melbourne for me. South-west, and I would head into the light industrial and mixed-use parts of North and West Melbourne, including the desolate promenade along Railway Terrace, overlooking the Spencer Street rail yards. North-east, and I would find myself at The Avenue, Parkville, with Royal Park on one side and one of the most Victorian of Melbourne’s Victorian streetscapes on the other.

My most epic walk, however, was in a north-west direction. It took in first the Michael Mann deathscape of the City Link entrances and overpasses around the Flemington Bridge intersection, then the Essendon tram depot (which in keeping with the traditions of Melbourne public transport facility names is a long way from Essendon), the Mt Alexander Road antiques strip, that gothic row of houses overlooking a steep escarpment along Ormond Road, then cutting through to Park Street past the Reggio Calabria Club (where I once found $70 lying in the street, thanks drunk Italian wedding guests), descending through the Truman Show-like Commonwealth Games village, and down Manningham Street, a magically serene part of inner Melbourne that would have been torn to bits by the (now hopefully abandoned) East-West Link project.

map showing route of north-west walk

Since moving to Brunswick, there’s been less variety in my walks. Whatever direction I walk in, it’s Californian bungalows, and light-industrial in the process of being turned into apartments. I can cross Merri Creek to Northcote if I want hills (walking along the creek itself is probably ill-advised at night, although I’ve done it under a full moon a few times), or head westwards to where the streets widen and the residential blocks get bigger, but variety has to be found on a smaller scale around here.

The grid structure of the streets does make it easier to “quantify” walks though, something I’ve got into the habit of doing since I got an iPhone with a built-in pedometer. Rather than sticking to a few fixed routes, I walk in a straight line, turn 90 degrees, keep going until I’ve reached half the number of steps I want to do, then do the other two sides of the rectangle. Not in the spirit of the flâneur perhaps, but there it is.

The other ubiquitous technological companion to my night walks is a podcast…in fact, if podcasts hadn’t been invented, I don’t know if I’d be in the habit of taking long walks at all. Sometimes, though, I feel like listening to music instead. It’s just a matter of finding the right song…