Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Walking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Walking. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

FITTEST?

My friend Tammy sent me an article from the BBC titled “What you can learn from Einstein’s quirky habits,” subtitled “More than 10 hours of sleep and no socks – could this be the secret to thinking like a genius?”  - To which Betteridge’s law of headlines (and I suppose subtitles) surely applies: Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.  It was one of those “geniuses do the darnedest things” type of article, but it was sent to me because of old man Einstein’s walking habits.  This is him in Princeton:


The article ran, “Einstein’s daily walk was sacred to him. While he was working at Princeton University, New Jersey, he’d walk the mile and a half journey there and back. He followed in the footsteps of other diligent walkers, including Darwin who went for three 45 minute walks every day.”

I must say I first read that as Darwin doing forty-five walks of 3 minutes each which would have been really off the wall, but he wasn’t quite that eccentric.  In fact three walks a day doesn’t strike me as eccentric at all, though it may suggest he had a lot of time on his hands.


Darwin’s son Francis drew up a timetable describing his father’s typical day in middle age and later.  One walk before breakfast, one before lunch “starting with visit to greenhouse, then round the sandwalk, the number of times depending on his health, usually alone or with a dog,” then another at 4 pm  “usually round sandwalk, sometimes farther afield and sometimes in company.”  There was also a fair amount of work, rest, and having his wife Emma read to him.

So yes 3 walks of 45 minutes, more or less, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer.  The “sandwalk” also referred to as Darwin's “think path” was, and I believe still is, a gravel track around Sandwalk Wood a piece of land Darwin rented then owned, adjacent to his house. Darwin walked circuits on the path. Today it looks like this:


The sandwalk is only a quarter of a mile round trip, so you could get around it quite a few times in 45 minutes, and apparently Darwin set up a pile of stones at a certain point on the circuit so that he could kick away one of them each time he passed.  That way he wouldn’t have to interrupt his thinking by counting the number of circuits he’d done, although you might also ask why he needed to count circuits at all. 


I’d have thought somebody would have taken a photograph of Darwin walking but if they did I can’t find one, though there is this fine one of him on a horse:


As for Einstein, the BBC article continues, “No list of Einstein’s eccentricities would be complete without a mention of his passionate aversion to socks. ‘When I was young,’ he wrote in a letter to his cousin – and later, wife – Elsa, ‘I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in a sock. So I stopped wearing socks.’”



Now you and I may have thought that shoes without socks was just an annoying hipster affectation, and definitely no good for walking, but wait, there’s more in the article,  “Later in life, when he couldn’t find his sandals he’d wear Elsa’s sling backs instead.” Now this is way more than eccentric, if you ask me.



As you see in the picture above he is indeed wearing what appear to be women’s shoes, although not sling backs, and whether they’re his wife’s or his own or somebody else’s I can’t say.  And at other times …


Friday, June 9, 2017

SOME NEW THOMASSONS

Well, new to me anyway, and seen while out walking, though I suppose, by definition, a Thomasson is never brand new, since it’s always a relic or an abandoned and repurposed architectural feature that can subsequently be perceived, however ironically, as a piece of art.  That’s my own definition by the way: there may well be better ones out there.


Let’s start with a couple of empty pedestals or plinths – the one above is in the shadow of the Barbican Center in London, which is to say it’s also very close to the old city wall.  I’m intrigued by the dense black coating up at the top of the molding.  Is that industrial pollution?  Did the whole thing used to be that color?  It doesn’t look like anybody cleaned it – they’d surely have done a better job - so has the grime just fallen away?  These are not entirely rhetorical questions.  And presumably it once had a statue on top of it, I wonder of who or what.


The one above, less ornate, chunkier, cleaner, is to be found just outside the Inner Ring in Vienna, a city where the most incredible bits of statuary are everywhere, but this pedestal would be completely overwhelmed by any of the “typical” Viennese statues you see.  And looking at that rather smooth top, I tend to think it maybe never had anything on it at all, and it’s probably just waiting for some artist to use it and give it life.


An artist like Eduardo Paolozzi perhaps, dead now, so not him specifically, though he’d definitely have done a good job. But I was thinking of him because not so long ago I went to an exhibition of his work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and I looked out of one of the windows adjacent to the staircase and saw this:


I guess if you saw it elsewhere you might think of it as just another bricked up window, but the combination of Paolozzi, the Thomason mindset, and the presence of art at the Whitechapel makes you, or at any rate me, see things a bit differently.

Meanwhile in my own neighborhood in Hollywood I saw this:


Kind of looks like a niche, the kind of thing you might put a statue of the Virgin Mary in.  (As Dorothy Parker may or may not have said: “Upon my honor/ I saw a Madonna/
/Standing in a niche …” The rest is just abuse and you can look it up for yourself if you need to).  But a closer inspection of the niche reveals some electrical wires up at the top, and a broader view shows a shiny new electricity meter off to the left, so I’m guessing the niche was formerly the home of an old meter.



But I do think I'd put some kind of statuary in there if it were mine.

And finally in my own own street, this thing;


Eyes without a face I suppose, although there is kind of a face, or am I just indulging in pareidolia?  In any case I can’t imagine what this was ever part of but I’m very glad it’s still there.


Friday, January 20, 2017

WALKING IN WIGS

Here’s some fairly minor walking lore relating to James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-1799), a Scottish judge, linguist, and (I suppose you’d have to say) philosopher, one of the early theorists of evolution. On no obvious scientific basis he posited the notion that men were descended from apes.  He’s even mentioned in Martin Chuzzlewick.


He seems not to have been taken all that seriously by contemporaries.  According to a piece in The Herald and Genealogist, Volume the Third, 1866, “it is said that Lord Kames, to whom he would on one occasion have yielded precedence, declined it, saying. ‘By no means, my Lord, you must walk first, that I may see your tail’.”

That's him below on the far right, Lord Kames on far left, Hugo Arnot in the middle: the etching is by John Kay:


And he's the fellow second from the right in this one:




There’s another walking story about Monboddo that I have yet to fully fathom.  On one occasion he came out of court to find it was raining.  A sedan chair was waiting for him but he declined to use it, calmly placed his wig in the chair, and walked home in the rain.  Some sources say this was because he employed the methods of “the ancients” to keep fit, but that hardly seems a complete explanation.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

WALKING WITH FELIXES


I think you probably know that as well as being a fan of walking, I’m also a fan of “street photography” - a term that admittedly seems to be becoming increasingly dodgy. 


Recently I have also become, very belatedly, and in a mild sort of way, rather fond of cats.  And I think my fondness for cats may have something to do with walking – in that you have to “take” a dog for a walk, whereas cats insist on walking by themselves.  My cat may follow me from one room to another, but the idea of “going for a walk” with her seems inconceivable.  This is her:


One of my favorite photographers, Nobuyoshi Araki, is a great deal more than a street photographer, but he certainly takes photographs in the street, and sometimes he takes photographs of the cats he sees while he’s out walking.  He also took an enormous number of photographs of his own cat Chiro.  Like this one:


Araki, I think we can safely say, has published more books that any photographer ever has – certainly 400 plus - and one of them is titled Living Cats In Tokyo (Tokyo Neko Machi).


In some of the pictures the cat is front and center, sometimes the cat is very small and distant and it becomes a matter of “Where’s Felix?”  But they’re all good.



 I can tell you that it’s all too easy to walk around Tokyo with a camera, snapping away, and thinking you’re a bit of an Araki, and certainly the cats in Tokyo present themselves left and right, in endlessly photogenic configurations.



I can’t speak for the whole of the city, but wherever I was, whenever I stopped to look at a cat – I never got as far as petting one - a Japanese passerby would stop alongside me and say “kawaii” (which is one of the ten words of Japanese I know – meaning cute), as did this woman on her bike.


 This Tokyo experience and Araki’s book made me realize that over the years, without thinking about it very much, I’ve taken quite a few photographs of cats while I’ve been out walking.  I make no great claims for these pictures, all I can say is, “Wanna see some pictures of cats?”  I understand that some people like that kind of thing.