Walk, don’t run

Posted by Ian
There’s a music hall song, I think dating from the Second World War, which begins: "Strolling, just strolling/In the cool of the evening air."
It’s one of those lilting, sinaglong numbers popularised by the likes of Flanagan and Allen that you always see being trilled en mass by dragoons of cheery-faced chipper Britons in TV dramas set in the 1940s.
I’m not sure where or when I first heard it, but the song has stayed lodged in the back of my mind, occasionally resurfacing to chide me with its sentiments. Not that I feel guilty of shirking the pastime it advocates. Quite the contrary. I reckon I currently spend more of my life walking than I did since I was back at school.
This isn’t by accident, but design. I’ve talked before of how, since the start of the year, I’ve deliberately altered my journey to work to incorporate a decent walk. Now, with the weather changing and becoming less inclement, I’m trying to do even more walking, especially at lunchtimes.
Strolling, or mooching, is an infinitely rich experience, affording you the chance to clear your head, collect your thoughts, stretch your legs and generally observe the ways and wonders of the world. That is, providing the world around you is sufficiently receptive to a bit of idle viewing.
For the one thing above all else which strikes the city or town-bound moocher going about his or her business is the fact 99% of those around you are doing the complete opposite. In other words, walking as a means to an end. You must have seen them. Heads down, faces pulled tight in a grimace, mobile phone clamped to one ear, a mouthful of food, eyes on the pavement. They make for a depressing brood.
In fact, only when you stop walking from a to b and start walking for the sake of it do you really notice how few of those around you seem to be enjoying using their legs. Most of them don’t seem to be able even to control them properly, forever bumping and colliding with others. Their arms swing out to hit you in the stomach. And they never look up to admire the world that towers up above them, contenting themselves with the space roughly three feet in front of their nose.
Such is the impression I get from endeavouring to walk leisurely through busy streets. It’s always possible to escape the hordes, of course, but trying – to coin a phrase – to flee far from the madding crowds inevitably serves to remind you of how mooching has become the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, I find people look at me suspiciously when I walk slower than "normal". They regard me shiftily, as if I have an ulterior motive for dawdling.
The stigma (and it’s become one) of being seen to be walking for the sake of it ignores not just the aesthetic and psychological rewards but also the physical benefits. If one thing above all else is going to improve the condition of your lifestyle it’s a regular wander. No wonder the generation who took the song ‘Strolling’ to their hearts and lived through the Second World War was, despite rationing, air raids and perpetual fear, the healthiest for centuries.     
The lyrics continue: "I don’t envy the rich, in their automobiles/For a motor car is phoney, I’d rather have shank’s pony!" Recite that to anyone of the age I was when I first heard the song and they’d most likely a) laugh in your face b) wonder just what on earth was a "shank’s pony" and c) bridle at the notion of a car being "phoney".
The way the world is turning, it might be the case we’ll all have to rediscover the art of strolling before too long. And that’s one particular benefit of cutting down on fuel emissions that rarely seems to get mentioned. 
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5 Responses to Walk, don’t run

  1. Unknown says:

       shank\’s pony is your own two feet, its a belfast saying, just thought you would like to know, love your blog,

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