Writing a column? It’s a walk in the park

By Simon Round, April 11, 2008

Occasionally, when I’m seeking inspiration for a column, I go for a walk. For some reason I find it easier to come up with ideas when I am moving. This is sometimes disconcerting for colleagues who think I am merely wandering aimlessly about the office, occasionally tripping over waste-paper baskets and exposed wires. So, for their benefit, I have taken to walking outside.

Which brings me to the subject for this week’s column – it’s about walking. I don’t know why I find walking so inspirational — maybe it’s because the blood flow to the brain increases when you perambulate. And then again, perhaps it is because things happen to you when you walk. You see things in shops, you see other people walking past you and you are forced to make the occasional visit to Accident and Emergency after tripping over a waste-paper basket. None of this happens to you when you are sitting motionless at a desk.

Admittedly there are problems. For example, when I am strolling in the park, my editor assumes that I am not working, whereas I am of course doing my most effective research. (I am often similarly inspired in the pub and also when walking home from the pub. In fact, I think I deserve a large pay rise given all the extra hours I put in.) However, it appears that the great British public do not share my enthusiasm for strolling. According to new research, the average person in this country walks only four miles a week, that is only a few hundred yards a day. Given that there plenty of people out there who are committed hikers. This means that there must be hundreds of thousands of others who never take a step outside their own front doors unaided — clearly they do not write columns for a living.

I suspect there are plenty of Jews in this category, this despite the fact that our religion encourages walking. For example, there is the walk to shul on a Saturday, there is the Shabbat afternoon walk (past the electrical shop to check on the football results), there is the matzah ramble (the accepted wisdom is that you need to do extra walking to encourage unleavened bread to work its way through your system).

Despite or perhaps because of the Talmudic imperative to walk, most of us don’t fancy it much. I suspect the inexplicable habit of jumping into the 4x4 to drive the 800 metres to the gym started in North-West London.

I, however, enjoy both the health benefits and the relaxation and peace of mind that a regular walk gives me. Having said that, I am a very Jewish kind of walker. I do not do the kind of walking that involves any kind of specialist shoes or clothes of the Gore Tex variety. Neither are there any dogs involved. My walks are all in urban spaces. I don’t feel comfortable walking anywhere beyond the M25 and I try to avoid particularly big, scary open spaces such as Richmond Park.

Because I am easily put off by adverse weather, sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that there is a marginal increase in the quality of my output during the warmer summer months, whereas when I am unable to put in the mileage due to a sudden cold snap, my work is more pedestrian (or should that be less pedestrian?)

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that if you didn’t enjoy this week’s column as much as last week’s, don’t blame me, blame the snow.

Last updated: 4:32pm, September 23 2009