The walking dude.

I’ve always liked walking and although I occasionally enjoy a walk and talk with someone else beside me, it kinda spoils the activity because when you’re accompanied, it intrudes into what I’ve always felt was me-time. Walking for me was always a rare escape into solitude.

I was born in the exact middle of a large noisy family, seventh of thirteen to be precise, which led to its very own problems in terms of a family dynamic. I did my best to ignore the natural positioning of me being the go between of the senior and junior elements of it. Of course, I did some of that, trying to prevent various warring fractions getting out of hand. It was my nature to think beyond the immediate, but I wouldn’t allow the familial squabbles to divert me from pursuing a line of thought that had caught my fancy. I could always park an interesting idea and later retrieve it and turn it over and over in my hands like a Rubik’s cube, squinting at it from different angles, trying to figure it out.

At times, finding somewhere quiet to read was virtually impossible. Choosing the smallest room in the house turned out to be a very unpopular option with people hammering on its door because its utility had become urgent. I usually could find somewhere quiet to read, but on the occasions that wasn’t possible, I’d go for a walk.

By some miracle, I learnt to walk and be fully absorbed in a book at the same time. I had a few close encounters of the thud kind with various lampposts, rubbish bins and various obstructions, while at the same time, and by a touch of what might have been divine intervention, not getting run over crossing streets absent mindedly. I think most people coming the other way just diverted around the slowly pacing sleepwalker with their nose in a book plodding in their direction.

In a way, I was like one of those roundy bottomed toy clowns you could poke and make bob sideways, but they’d aways come back to a swaying vertical and the exploration of the seam of thought would continue as if uninterrupted. Walking became a place of peace for me, no longer surrounded by warring siblings, the better than a caveman from a school I learnt to become a gladiator in, and all the rest of the people who ate and slept and knew me not. Superficially, I thought of it that way, and I’d a free bus pass for reasons I won’t go into. It reached a point where, although I always used it the mornings, I rarely used it for the trip home. That was exclusively for walking and uninterrupted reading time.

I always walked home. The average person walks at 3-4 miles per hour dependent on how quickly they want to reach their destination, but I was in no hurry because the evening meal was always set for six O’clock. Using this wonderful internet thing, it calculates I was about five miles from home, but I think I averaged a lot less than that average walking pace, because my head was in some book as I snail paced along. It was looking at some print of a Millais picture or an etching by William Blake showing Newton taking the measure of the universe, never mind his poetry talking about a Tyger, a Tyger burning brightly in the forests of the night or how God had crafted both the Tyger and the lamb.

It could equally as well have been the latest X-Men comic, a difficult find in Europe at the time, but the story would have been crafted by Stan Lee and beautifully illustrated by the ground breaking Jack Kirby. But Stan and Jack would be sandwiched between some authors of antiquity like Aeschylus or Plutarch or the Meditations of Marcus Antonius Aurealius or stirring tales of Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul. It was all input to a hungry mind which saw no difference between any of them.

The classical music I could hear on the wireless, because it was free. A big name conductor, Herbert von Karajan I think, was conducting Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Royal Albert Hall, and I felt the need to hear it live. I walked up to Kensington and because there was no way I could possibly afford a ticket, leant against the rear wall of the Royal Albert Hall, and pressed my forehead against the masonry, so I could hear and feel it being played and sung. Das Rheingold marvelously conducted. Afterwards, I walked home. I did the same for the next three parts of the ring as well.

With advancing years and a measure of increasing financial prosperity, I’ve since been able to attend the Wagner festival in Salzberg, fully tuxedoed up in a gilded concert hall rubbing shoulders with the gentry to listen to it. Somehow, it wasn’t as exciting as being a potless kid leaning your forehead against the masonry and hearing the concert via bone conduction right into your inner ear. Nobody can ever take that away from you.

There used to be this ridiculously small cinema in Portobello road, called the electric cinema, which might even be going still. It’d have thematic seasons, like the black and white Russian epics. Andrei Tarkovsky’s still haunting Solaris, Eisenstein’s klunky Battleship Potemkin and various patently propaganda efforts about the storming of the Winter Palace, but in fairness they’d screen things like Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph des Willens. Again, getting there and back was a few hours of gentle walking, but well worth the time.

I recall as a youth hitch hiking about the place, and I saw a lot of places, covered a lot of mileage, saw a lot of countries, but if nobody was interested in picking up a hitch hiker on a particular day, you had to drop back to Shank’s Mare that day. ie walking. I once did 25 miles of walking with a backpack on a blistering hot summer’s day where you had to stay off the road and on the grassy verge because the tarmac was so heated, it was sucking on your boots. My body temperature was somewhere in the hunker down and just take it zone.

These are all random selections from memory about my life experiences, but the eternal connecting link is walking. A few years back I was playing with my grandchildren, whom I dearly love, and found myself exhausted after barely five minutes. I down loaded a freebie pedometer app to my phone which after a week’s monitoring told me I was averaging 300 metres a day in walking. Appalling.

Kick up the ass time.

Sitting in front of a screen all day reading and working on a hot keyboard wasn’t doing myself any favours on the body front. An element of discipline had to be instituted. I experimented but finally evolved an exercise regimen that progressively addressed the problem. I’ve got the usual android mobile which comes with the standard clock application which comes with a countdown function. Once an hour, an alarm goes off. In response, I do eight minutes of pacing about the house or garden, weather permitting. Eight minutes of pacing turns out at 500 metres, half a kilometer.

The slowly building results were impressive. Eight minutes of pacing and I’d be raging with ideas and couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard. Slept much better, increased appetite, felt better in myself. When something is having a good effect, it’s only natural to pig out and in the end I was doing 10K a day. I was back to the walking and reading days of my youth, except without a book in my hand.

I’ve since backed it off because 10K was actually three hours of my day, though admittedly good creative thinking time. I’m a more sedate 4-5K a day man these days, unless something I’m trying to finish is driving me up the wall. It’s walking, not running or jogging, so there’s no kinetic impact on your body. I find it’s a gentle and contemplative form of physical exercise which stopped me becoming almost housebound without realising it. Discovering an average of 300 metres a day scared the shite out of me.

There’s a lot of guff talked about human beings and why we’ve spread around the entire world – no other single species on Earth has ever came anywhere near as being as successful as that. Not one. Ever. There are lots of theories about why we’re that successful; bigger brains, opposable thumbs et cetera and lots of other plausible ideas, but I’m not buying any of them. The only unique and unparalleled physical ability we have in the animal world is that we can keep walking longer than anything else on the face of the Earth.

There’s a form of hunting called pursuit hunting, and it’s unique to us. That meal on four legs we’re after can out sprint us easily, but they can’t do it hour after hour, day after day, and eventually they’ll keel over from sheer exhaustion and we’ll arrive with a knapped piece of flint in hand to bag our takeaway.

Our dogged persistence in pursuit of protein has always paid off handsomely for us. Let it pay off for you too.


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3 Responses to “The walking dude.”
  1. babygrandparents says:

    “Our dogged persistence in pursuit of protein has always paid off handsomely for us. Let it pay off for you too.Substitute the word protein with…..”.and its still the same. Thanks


  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    So when I see all these young ones wandering around with their heads bowed over mobile ‘phones, oblivious to their surroundings, I can assume they are thinking deep thoughts?
    Possibly about Darwin and the survival of the fittest?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Blackswan says:


    Like so many miracles of human biology, we ingrates take so much for granted … until they are lost to us.

    As you remind us, our ability and endurance has walked our ancestors around the planet and while birds and animals also migrate hundreds and thousands of miles in their seasonal treks and flights, they always chase the sun back to whence they came.

    But humans don’t … they stayed where they found food and water and flourished, putting down roots into the very soil they camped on.

    Strong and healthy youth takes so much for granted … to walk, run, sing, dance … but the years, or accident and infirmity, can so easily rob us of our mobility and independence. A broken foot is currently reminding me of that, so your excellent advice that “dogged persistence” will pay off handsomely, is very timely indeed. Thank you.

    As that ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu opined … “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

    That single step is the most important of all.

    Liked by 2 people

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