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Keep on walking

  • 29 September 2020
We have to acknowledge and accept that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything in life. But it also has to be admitted that some unexpected changes are for the better.

Here in Greece, for example, people seem to be smoking less and walking more. Gone are the days when long walks were measured in the time it took to smoke x number of cigarettes, the cigarettes being considered compensation for the walking, for the latter was equated with work and certainly not with pleasure.

But the practice of walking can, of course, accomplish great things: just think of Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than 30 million pounds for Britain’s NHS, simply by plodding around his garden for a month before his 100th birthday. Travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor started his career at the age of 18, when he set off on a walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in the year 1933, before old Europe changed forever. An inveterate walker, the eminent historian G.M. Trevelyan, author of a famous essay on walking, always said he had two doctors: his left leg and his right.

The Jains of India believe that while the Buddha found enlightenment while sitting under a tree, their original leader had enlightenment come to him while he was walking, and so Jainist nuns and monks walk everywhere, using a fan as they go, so that they do not inadvertently harm any living thing.

My Greek mother-in-law, the redoubtable Aphrodite, did not suffer any physical incapacity, but one day she simply decided to stop walking, took to her chair, and then eventually to her bed. It was as if she had retired from work, but in fact she had also retired from life: once in her bed, she never got out of it. We had many differences, she and I, and one thing she found impossible to understand was my daily habit of wandering off on my own, up into the nearby mountains, or in order to make a circuit of the village.

The important thing was that I used to feel, once established in a rhythm, that all care had lifted, had simply floated away. Trevelyan said that after a day’s walk everything has twice its usual value, and I, for one, can see what he meant.

'I kept on walking regardless, but also kept on wondering about fairies, although none appeared.'

But my practice of walking apparently bothered some