Monday, 25 July 2016


Dionne Warwick sung this in 1964. Bill Baccharat and Hal David wrote it.

Foolish pride…that's all that I have left….” Those lyrics floated round my head as I walked and walked and walked last week.

Walking isn’t anything new.  We used to walk vast distances across continents.

Dickens walked 25 miles through the night from London to Rochester creating plots and giving birth to characters. Bill Sykes was conceived on the A2. Wordsworth who trudged over fell and dale in the Lake District was reckoned by his substance-abusing friend Thomas de Quincey to have walked 180,000 miles during his lifetime. Oxford Dons used to walk alongside the River Cherwell talking, thinking and debating.

Ferris Jabr wrote a piece in the New Yorker in 2014 entitled “Why walking helps us think” in which he said:

“Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight.”

We live trapped in front of PC screens in air conditioned offices thinking in an air conditioned way. Recycled ideas collide in our dulled, aching minds.

Last week a client-friend and I walked through London. We didn’t walk that far, just six miles give or take, but for a sedentary chap like me that seemed a long way. A long way in retrospect because at the time it seemed like a gentle stroll being constantly stimulated; an agenda-less conversation with intellectual diversions as they occurred. We even walked into a couple of churches - the Brompton Oratory and a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens. On our journey we needed peace which we found in both, as well as inspiration.

We wandered through Hyde, Green and St James’ Park. We admired Nile Geese in the latter, the Ove Arup exhibition in the V&A - “the Philosophy of Total Design”.  How wonderful to find an eccentric genius who made a fortune and made people laugh. His lyrics and doodles are funny and insightful.

So we discovered walking? No we rediscovered the joy of discovery. Here’s Jabr again:
“When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps.”

We made a series of mental footsteps in puzzling over a series of issues and stumbling over a set of possible resolutions. We wrote nothing down, although I was able afterwards to produce a pretty well word perfect version of the discussion just by recalling a place - Harrods - or a situation - the Black Swan or an incredible, buzzy, joy overflowing early supper in the Wolseley.

It felt like a particularly happy time.

Walking liberates thinking, creativity and peace - try it.


Nick Fitzherbert said...

I do much more walking these days for all sorts of reasons including the ones you mention. Last week I discovered that Bloomsbury and Holborn are wonderful after dark! It has, however, necessitated a new footwear strategy as the cobbler's bills were becoming too much. I believe I have now hit on the best solution - Grenson brogues with thick Goodyear welts.

Unknown said...

Above all do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked my way into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it...thus if one keeps on walking, everything will be all right.