The D2D distribution team spend hours walking for miles whilst delivering flyers and leaflets to households and businesses.
The words “walk” and “learn” have the same Indo-European root. This is no accident of etymology. From Ancient times there has been an instinctive grasp that the mind does not exist independently but depends upon the rest of the body.
Close down the screen, stand up and stroll outside for a while and a seemingly intractable problem finds a ready solution. In something which always appears miraculous, the to-and-fro of the legs works upon the subconscious to yield an answer.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Cambridge dons did not balk at walking the sixty miles to London in a long day. Among them was the historian G. M. Trevelyan, a force behind the Youth Hostel Association, and Leslie Stephen, a writer and mountaineer now most widely known for being the father of Virginia Woolf. She too relished walking across the Sussex Downs as a means to shaping sentences (and once crawled under a hedge only to emerge, bedraggled, at the very feet of the bemused farmer in whose field she now found herself).
Of course, in these times, it does always appear as easy to break away and stroll. There is, however, a growing movement in organisations to hold “walking meetings”; these have been found more productive than the cooped confines of “brain-storming” sessions where a marker pen squeals across the whiteboard towards oblivion. There are more chances to walk which habit may have obscured from sight. It can be almost as quick to walk as to take a bus. That might sound odd but, next time, note how much of the journey is spent in people getting on and off it, waiting at the lights and attempting to squeeze past other vehicles (often double-parked as the drivers shy from parking a little further away and walking to a shop). Unlike the bus passenger, a walker is a free agent, able to take different routes, observe more detail in the surrounding area – and to absorb the vitamin D which wafts those 93 million miles from the Sun.
Prisoners, with scant chance to get in the exercise yard, suffer from a lack of vitamin D. Why make oneself a prisoner when it is out there for the asking? All of which is to say that exercise, properly regarded, is not a burden but a part of freedom to be enjoyed for its own sake. A lesson best learnt young, a lifetime’s gift, but one that can still be opened further along the line.
This brings Marlene Dietrich to mind (she who enjoyed strolling with her dogs). In 1961 she published an ABC book, one of those volumes that you pick up at random and are still browsing half an hour later. Under the entry HEALTH she writes, “I cheered when I found this”. The cause of her joy? A remark by the philosopher Herbert Spencer: “The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality.”
Not that this need rule out a pint along the way during a day on the Downs. It can taste all the better for this.