Sunday, 23 November 2008

Stick People

One of the real joys of living in Cornwall is the variety and individuality of the scenery. I get out once a week, usually on a Sunday or Monday, to tramp over the countryside and admire the wonderful surroundings. Be it coastline, moorland or the truly atmospheric Cornish antiquities, on goes my walking stuff.

I love my walking boots. A bit odd, you say, but you haven't tried them on. They're a good ten years old, and like butter. I've caked them with dubbin and I'm always amazed at the amount they can swallow up. In a sale a few years ago I bought a second pair, thinking that eventually the old faithfuls would drop to bits, but they are still very much a going concern.

I tend to wear army surplus stuff when walking. There are loads of pockets for all the necessaries, and this stuff is tough. Hacking through brambles on Predannack Down may not be your ideal cup of tea but it would be a jolly sight worse in Marks slacks, let me tell you.

My car is filled with essential equipment. A change of clothes in case it chucks it down.
A map is good, as well as food, a small pack, a camera and a book. The last doubles as my toolkit - if I break down, I can read it until the RAC arrives.

Walking isn't a solitary pursuit at all. You meet other, like-minded explorers and people are at pains to say hello and have a chat. Often they are middle-aged, but walking is great exercise and many of them are very fit. Some are knowledgeable about the locality, some have friendly dogs you can make a fuss of. Some know the direction of where you want to go, which is always helpful when the map's wrong (this happens quite a lot). The old campaigners are easy to identify because they have battered but suitable clothing and equipment.

But will someone please explain to me the current fad for walking with the aid of sticks.

We see this particularly among smartly-dressed walkers, couples with new cagouls in bright and (emetically) sometimes matching colours. In addition to their new boots and packs they carry telescopic, carbon-fibre walking sticks, sometimes just one, often two. To some, apparently, such equipment is now considered an indespensible aid to motion.

Why do the stick people have to push off (as it were) on every stride? They could just walk. The terrain is sometimes perfectly flat, and is never likely to reach the severity of the Matterhorn. It's hard to believe they would be unable to totter along without such support. Or is the object to go faster, in which case heaven help us.

No. What we're saying is, even in the simple world of walking about, the uncontrollable necessity has arisen - having been carefully nurtured - to accessorise. Megacorp is snaring even this uncomplicated activity in its loathsome grasp. What further ludicrous embellishments can we expect?

Message: don't be a victim, don't buy stupid sticks! They aren't cool, they do not help you walk, you have already learned how to do that some time ago.