Wednesday 19 January 2011

Walking and Talking

I’ve always loved walking. And it goes without saying that I am a pretty good talker! I've just remembered that my (not so kindly meant) nickname when I was little was chatterbox! And what I enjoy most is doing both at the same time. In the summer when I go to Italy, there’s nothing I like better than walking along the coast from the tiny village we stay in to the little port about 15 minutes away (at a gently brisk pace). I do it almost every day, sometimes more than once. The best is when I’m walking with a friend, talking about our lives and loves, about the things we care about, about the things we struggle with. Along that walk are so many memories of pivotal conversations. Walking along that wonderfully rugged stretch of coast-line was the first time I contemplated the idea of writing a book… If I lived there (and some day… some day in the not too distant future, I shall…) I would walk every day. I would walk in the morning when the air is fresh and the light is bright and I would walk in the late afternoon when the sky is pink, the sun is a huge red ball hanging just above the horizon. I love the smell of the salt, the sound of the waves…I love the feel of the hot sun on the back of my neck and top of my head, the warm sand getting stuck between my toes in my flip flops, the tall scorched grasses, the buzzing things and the lack of people... and of course I love knowing that an icy cold, home made iced tea is waiting for me at my favourite cafe in the little port of Villanova when I get there…..

This is the part in the story when the image suddenly screeches to a halt and reality kicks in... we’re back in Muswell Hill, north London. Grey sky, cold, raining. Hard pavements. Dog poo. Cars chucking out fumes. No sea, no sun, no warmth and no iced tea. This is the reality of my every day life at the moment. School runs, traffic jams and seemly endless drizzle. I want to walk but I just can’t summon the enthusiasm to take myself by the hand and do it in these conditions… at least not until it’s just a bit lighter in the mornings. Not until the sun comes out just for a few minutes. I’m Ok when we hit March/April but until then (and since October!) I think about walking a lot and do very little. I don’t like the idea of walking alone in the dark and walking in the cold, wet, urgh! with no one to talk to… sounds like a punishment. 

That was… until I discovered a walking group just minutes from my house. I’d seen it advertised ‘Brisk Walk 7.15 to 8am Mondays and Fridays’ and thought I’d give it a go. What attracted me was the idea of walking with other people. Of not being alone. Of hopefully having a good chat along the way, to distract me from the weather and the scenery. As luck would have it on the first Monday I had decided to go, I drew the curtains to be met not by gentle drizzle but by a torrential downpour. Oh God. Would they still go? Did I want to? I decided to risk it, rummaged in the bottom of my coat cupboard for the waterproofs and went to the meet the group.

Here were 8 women and one man. All sensibly clad in waterproofs (How glad I was that I hadn’t tried to look cool!) All in their mid to late sixties. All of them committed walkers who have been in this group for five years plus… and me! They were friendly and welcoming, chuckling about being a bit cliquey and stuck in their ways. And then appeared Chris, the young man who runs the group and off we went.

The 45 minutes that followed were the best I’ve had in a while. We walked (at a fast and invigorating pace) for  through scenery that it was mostly too dark to discern, but I think I made out woods at times and an old railway track somewhere along the way. It poured the whole time and I didn’t even notice. I was far too taken with feeling how good it felt to take big strides, to feel my muscles waking up, to move my legs and arms, to breathe in the (not so) fresh air and to talk with interesting and friendly people. I had the best time. I loved every minute… And I felt great afterward… very wet.. and very alive. I enjoyed it so much…

… that I have just signed up for a Walk Leader Training course and I’m planning to start a Beyond Chocolate ‘walk and talk’ group in Muswell Hill! I just can’t help turning my passions into work. Partly because to me work is not a drudge or something I do just to earn money. Work is something I love and would do every day, regardless of whether I needed to earn a living… but that’s another blog post.

I’ll still be walking with the group who inspired me, nothing could tempt me to miss such a wonderful start to the day (OK, well maybe some things could) but I have an image in my mind of a Beyond Chocolate walk and talk group; women, meeting to enjoy moving, talking about whatever’s on their mind at the same time and finishing with a cup of tea and a bit more talking…

Can’t wait to get started!

If you live anywhere near Muswell Hill and you’d like to join me for a morning walk and talk…. email me at


  1. It sounds great - I love walking but wonder how it works with a bigger group unless you can all walk at the same pace. And what happens if nature calls? I seem to spend quite a lot of my longer walks behind bushes and would be a little shy to do so in front of a group! Either way, I hope you enjoy this new-found way of moving - as the days get lighter, you'll be able to watch the seasons change and that's a very magical side benefit of walking.

  2. Walking in a group work fine. The faster people walk ahead a bit and those who like going slower stay at their own pace and all the rest stay in the middle! The route is the same each week so everyone knows where they're going and from time to time the walk leader walks to the back and checks that all are OK. I'm sure I'll learn all about this on the course! 45 minutes is not so long that I can't hold a pee if I need one. I just make sure I go before we leave, I've been fine so far :-) Looking forward to seeing the change in the seasons. In fact looking forward to it being light enough so I can see anything at all!

  3. What a great idea! Let us know how the course was and, in due time, how your first walk as leader went!


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