The Third Leader: Happy walk

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The Independent Online

Walking, we note, is in decline, victim of contemporary priorities, fears, affluence, alternatives and preference for purposeful haste and arrival over hopeful travel and anticipation. And you can see where this is coming from: if, in Lady Thatcher's famous dictum, buses are for losers, where does that leave Shanks's Pony? Trailing rather far behind, I'm afraid. In fact, I'm told that in Los Angeles you can get arrested for it.

All of which is a pity, as I'm a great fan. Not of the brisk stride, obviously, but of the amiable amble described by Keith Waterhouse as "mooching". True, there is always the danger you will be knocked over by any number of fellow pavement users, but I find that my high visibility jacket and flashing light deter all but the most determined. Country ambling is fun, too, although you need to be in a group or with a dog to avoid suspicion.

Some, especially teenagers, claim walking is boring, but I point out that variation is available, such as not treading on the cracks. Dr Johnson once walked to the top of a steep hill and then rolled back down, but I would not recommend that everywhere. Coleridge imagined he was swimming down the Strand, but, again, the arm movements attracted attention.

These two do, though, remind how many thoughts and works are owed to the walk. Bach walked for miles, as did Dickens; people set their watches, literally, by Kant's constitutional. A close thing, muse-wise, between walking and a bath, and you know which is greener. Time, then, in the wise words of Helen Shapiro, for walking back to happiness.

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