The other day the excellent Annie, who writes amusingly, movingly, and thought provokingly at nohatnogloves.wordpress.com, asked if I’d like to chip in with my thoughts on a matter that is currently exercising her.
Well, of course I would, and might she consider returning the shot with a few words of her own? Good grief, she was back within the hour with this splendid piece – a great read. So, in a first for this blog, we’re going for simultaneous publication. I’m over at https://nohatnogloves.wordpress.com/ and she’s got the floor here.
Over to Annie…
Walking: it’s the way forward
When it comes to walking, it must be said that I am a fan. It was not always so and, when a teenager, I didn’t care for it at all. I had a very brief stage of trying to walk barefoot – it was 1973, I was a mere child of nature – but found that was extremely unwise. Litter, broken glass and dog poo was everywhere and, to be frank, I looked like a fool. Long hair, long skirt, bare feet and a limp. Very cool. I rather liked being driven about at the time. My father, on the other hand, took a view of walking that came into conflict with my own leisurely style. I used to go to work for him in the summer holidays and we would travel up to London on the early train and then cross the City post-haste, Dad always setting a pace that made me irritable and laggard. Waving his rolled-up newspaper, he would stride ahead, constantly telling me to get a move on. But I was wearing platforms. I might as well have tried staggering with bricks on my feet.
Things did change, especially when I left home and went to live in London. I would spend days on end walking, walking, walking around the City, crossing the river and back again, getting myself happily lost. After a while, it became the most sensible way to get somewhere quickly, picking up short cuts and back-doubles, hurrying round slowcoaches and dodging the traffic. I regularly walked about six miles a day to work and back in the early 80s, sometimes in very inadvisable footwear. With my friend Carol, I would regularly stagger home in the small hours, teetering on heels and stopping off at the takeaway for chips. Wonderful way to prevent a hangover and cheaper than a taxi. Back then, wearing special walking shoes was a mystery but my feet never seemed to suffer. I enjoyed the peace and the opportunity to enjoy my thoughts, often dreaming the miles away as I pounded up and down Wood Lane and under the Westway, heading for work by Wormwood Scrubs.
By the time I had moved to the village where I now live, walking had another very useful purpose. In the early 90s I suffered from depression – started quite mildly after my son was born, got worse when my dad died, exploded a couple of years later – and walking was a real boon. I joined up with some friends after we had dropped off our children at the school doors and we strode up hill, down dale (literally, this is Yorkshire), chatting and sharing the joys and otherwise of our lives. It was very helpful indeed and I began to feel that I could find a way out of this downbeat way of life; thankfully, I was right. I still walk to loosen up my mind or stave off feelings of anxiety because I know that the moment I turn out into the street, things will start to look and feel different, lighter.
I don’t mind walking in bad weather or fine as long as I have the proper footwear (no more platforms) and the right outerwear (the misery of being cold and wet) and I am happy walking city streets or slogging up hills. Deserts, mountains, valleys, concrete and tarmac – walked them all. As I have vertigo I may well get wobbly in certain situations – coming down, not going up is the dangerous bit – and when that happens I transfer to my bottom and a fine array of swearing. It helps. Sometimes it startles people.
Some years ago, my friend Astra and I decided to do the Moonwalk night-time walking marathon. We trained with real intent and bowled up at Battersea Park on a splendid May evening with a golden setting sun. It was brilliant, if agonizing by 5am. We laughed ourselves stupid when trying to wee behind tiny bushes and thoroughly enjoyed the reactions of drunken Londoners when they encountered the mass of bra-wearing women who seemed to have taken over the streets. As dawn broke over West London, we urged each other onward; by the time we got to Kensington Gardens all we could think of was the pain in our backs. Almost too weary to cheer, we walked together through the gates of the park again and literally staggered into a taxi. God knows how we got out. Think Pats and Eddie in Ab Fab. Pretty close. We did the Moonwalk a few more times so it just goes to prove that you can forget pain quite quickly, like childbirth.
I do enjoy walking with friends but am mostly happy when walking alone, thoughts running free, setting my own pace and getting somewhere, even if that is just to the local Aldi for a bottle of milk. There is no technique to what I do and no scheme of improvement, rarely a swinging of arms. I have seen what happens when you stop moving about and it isn’t appealing. As the years go by I will probably slow down a bit, maybe even resort to using a stick. Do I have plans for more walks? Yes, certainly. I should like to do at least a part of the pilgrim route of Santiago de Compostela and, closer to home, the Pilgrims Way across the Downs. Not all in one go, but in stages, stopping off to admire things along the way and having a good lunch.
Things connected to walking that I love:
Stout shoes, fine socks
A snack in the pocket
Never worrying about how I look (not confined to walking)
Getting in a hot bath afterwards or a cold shower, depending on weather
Thinking without pressure
The wonderful film The Way
It really isn’t the destination, it is truly the journey.