How much influence do we have on how long we’ll live? Fixed, fated or flexible?

Are we allotted a fixed number of steps we can walk (and a fixed number of heartbeats) in our lives?

Put another way: if we walk faster, do we add to our lives, because we are exercising our heart more, or do we shorten our lives because we are using up our steps and heartbeats quicker?

I guess we can never know. We just have to enjoy the time we have.

How to Walk Well

Photo by Pixabay on

Listen, I know that this is probably discriminatory and all of that, but this blog post is not aimed at people that don’t generally walk with their legs. I know some fine people that use wheels to get around and others who use various combinations of sticks and frames and they (and you) are all wonderful people, but this is not your time to listen. Also not included as the potential audience for this post are things like rocks and plants that don’t get around in the same way that humans do. I mean, sure, rocks get around by getting kicked and plants get mobile by getting themselves put into pots and hanging baskets, but still – this post is not for you.

Happily though, pretty much everything and everyone else is included. Frogs get around in much the same way that humans do, and rockets and cars do pretty much the same.

So, now we’ve laid some ground rules – on with the show.

The first and only rule for How To Walk is to introduce some variety into it. By this I mean that sometimes you need to skip and other times you need to swagger. Sometimes you should consider walking backwards and at other times you can perhaps think on the benefits of walking like crabs do – sideways. Wait now – don’t go. This is not madness. This is absolute common sense. Think about it: stuff wears out, right? After you’ve walked across a grassy field a few dozen times, you’ll notice that you’ve laid down a track. The grass you walk on will get beat down the more often you walk on it. Then it’ll get more sparse. Then it’ll die. This is the wearing process. The same thing happens to joints, muscles, tendons and other stuff in your legs when you do the same things to them day after day. They get worn in certain patterns.

So what, I hear you ask, is the alternative?

Let’s go back to our field of grass. Think about what happens when, every time you go across it, you choose a different route. Here’s what happens – you don’t wear a track. This is because the grass at any particular point has a chance to recover from being trod on. By spreading your footfalls around the grass you bring benefit to the whole field and – bonus – you still get from one side to the other. It’s a true win-win situation.

Similarly, when you vary the way that you walk you give the various components of your legs a rest. You’ll have noticed, perhaps, that walking up hills uses different muscles to walking down them. Your legs ache in different ways according to what you’ve done. In the same way, walking backwards, sideways or forwards use different combinations of tendons, joints and muscles. The more variety you can bring into your gait the more benefit you will bring to yourself and your legs. Make variety in the way you walk a lifetime habit and, chances are, the longer your legs will last.

That’s all for now; I hope you enjoyed what I’ve shared and are able to tune in to future episodes of ‘How To’, but for now – happy walking!

Bench Views #19 – Withens Top

This is lovely place to sit and contemplate my mortality. To the left of me is a building that was built 500 years ago and is supposedly the inspiration for Wuthering Heights by You Know Who.

Behind me is something making a weird noise and I’ve just realised I’m utterly alone here. Oh, another one making that same funny noise – like a screechy kind of rustling noise. And they’re both getting closer. I’m off. I’ll continue this later.

Okay, so it’s later now. The events in the previous paragraphs happened two weeks ago and since then I haven’t been followed home by strange, screechy creatures. They haven’t been tapping their claws on my windowpanes at midnight whilst whispering ‘let me iiiiin!’ in with their high-pitched voices. They haven’t snuck into my house through the keyhole and started to nest under my bed from which they don’t ever creep out at midnight and drag their furtive bodies up and down the carpet and sneak their clawed fingers under the cover to fondle my ankles speculatively as if they are wondering if there’s enough flesh on the bone to bother with. Nope, nothing like that’s happened at all.


Sunshine Above the Clouds

Rain above UK.

It’s raining (it’s pouring) and there’s no-one on the pavements of York but me and my big, purple umbrella. ☔ Well, almost no-one.

I startled a man from his gloomy (judging from the dark clouds on his rain-soaked brow) reverie by wishing him a hearty ‘Good Morning!’ His surprised nod was reward enough. This is, after all, Yorkshire, where dour is the habitual watchword.

I bamboozled a middle-aged woman walking on the pavement by slipping by to her left, which she obviously regarded as her sovereign territory. There are many people living here on York who have spent almost their whole life walking and driving on the right-hand-side of their paths and roads and so it’s a struggle to adapt to the UK’s left-hand-side ethos. I offered her a consolatory smile but she fended it off by ducking her face under her brolly.

A young woman passing me on a corner in her hooded (and soaked) raincoat said ‘ooo’ with a surprised tone to her voice. I hadn’t touched her and so I was, in turn, surprised by her interjection. I would have said ‘Good Morning’ to her too, but her back, as she marched away from me, looked a bit too huffy for my cheeriness to have had any effect. Hey-ho.

Right, I’ve reached Sainsbury’s now (I was sent out for bread (not really)) and so I’ll bid you a moist adieu. Hope you’re safe and happy. Robert.

Walking Without Purpose

Nine minutes ago I set off for a walk. I usually read whilst walking, but I’ve recently given that up (see here). So I was pootling along thinking that I was just moving with no aim or objective. In the words, there was no purpose to this walk.

Then I saw that the recycling hasn’t been collected on this road yet and that people still read newspapers in some households. Then I jumped out of the way of two runners coming from opposite sides and got me a smile or two. Then I saw this view on the left:

River Ouse with trees reflecting from surface on a sunny day.

Then I heard the birds and the clank of the caterpillars building the flood defenses and saw the blue sky arcing above and smelled the… well, actually – I can’t smell anything, but that’s not the point.

The point is that walking is a purpose all by itself. You don’t need to have somewhere to go to enjoy the going. Just go. The journey itself can be just as lovely, if not more so, than the experience of arriving somewhere.

So there you go – I’m having a nice walk. At least, I was until I stopped and typed this whilst sitting on a shaded bench, which is now physically shaking due to those caterpillar treads clanking away just behind me as they push earth here and there. Now I’m just having an interesting sit.

Right, time for me to be off now. I have to get to work. I hope you have a lovely purposeless day, my dear.

My Walk Home

I just called my wife to say that I’ll be home soon, which is quite possibly just the news she wanted to hear. She’s been home all day, is feeling neglected. Can’t tear herself away from devices. I need her to know that I miss her too, that we can calm each other, but it’s going to be an hour before I can reach there and the thoughts rushing around in our minds mean that we have a tense evening ahead of us if either of us says the wrong thing.

So I can’t just stand here, typing this. I’m too full of the absence of her, my heart feels like a weight in my chest, like a bird dead in the bottom of the cage. I move myself on, walk a few more steps until I reach the edge of the pavement and then stand, waiting for the end of this sentence so that I can cross the road. It’s around five thirty; a sparse but steady stream of folk on their way home from work. There are people around my small island of concentration, part of me hears the swoosh of tyres in the road, the whirr of cycles and the rattle of a pram pushed by a mother taking advantage of the last freedom of the day, before she has to go home to be with their silent husband.

I walk across the road, cross beneath the acorn tree on the corner, feeling dried husks crunch beneath my feet. I stand for a moment before crossing another road and then glance back towards the family now walking behind. I try to speed up, but they pass me, their conversation momentarily stilled and I think of greeting them. But what would I say then? Hope you have a nice evening? Nice chatting? Their eyes are on me but I don’t think they are seeing a new friend.

I carry in towards the willow tree, and without really thinking about it duck my head beneath the swaying fronds. I’m about halfway under when a sudden breeze whips one of them across my face, and it’s awful; it’s like being punished, I feel it as a visceral reaction close to my lizard-brain; stirring up my resentment. I look down and notice something on the pavement, a pound coin. Dropped by someone fumbling for an object in their pocket probably, and something about it delights me. I reach down for it, wanting it for my pocket money-pebble: Gilbert. I smile as I slip it into my pocket and quicken my pace towards home.

In our drive, I stop to type this last paragraph. I can smell delicious food and can hear familiar noises from within. I smile and push the door open.

“Hello, Sugarplum, I’m home!”

My Eccentricity

I’m about as eccentric as your next Joe. See me in a crowd and your eyes might pass right over me. A couple of times. And maybe once more – just to be sure. I’m above average height with an athletic build and I have blue eyes. There’s other stuff too, but I want to maintain an air of modesty, so I’ll shelve those for now.

The thing that makes me stand out, though, is my habit of reading in public. No, not on a park bench, not on public transport and not whilst stood on a street corner waiting for my date (aka my wife) to arrive. None of those things. My eccentricity is that I read paperbacks whilst walking along the pavement by the side of the road.

I have this thing about making the most of my time. I dislike wasting long tranches of time on banal things like watching the same scenery that I’ve seen year after year. I want variety, and it’s by reading that I get it.

I once walked from where I live now (York) to the place I was born (Sheffield), which is about 60 to 70 miles. Actually, thinking about it, today is the 4th anniversary of that walk. I was halfway through the journey exactly four years ago today. Here’s a snap I took along the way:

York to Sheffield

Thing is, I took a book with me, but I never took it out of my bag. Not once. The scenery was new and fresh and exciting and it was enough for me to be seeing the things along the way. I didn’t need anything but what was in front of my eyes as I walked in order to enjoy myself.

But when I’m walking the same old streets every day – to and from work, I need a little bit extra to keep me going.

If you see me walking, feel free to stop and chat with me. Don’t hesitate to ask me the question that’ll be burning on your mind: how come you can do that without walking into things. And I’ll give you the same old cheery answer: practice.

And then I’ll wink, smile and walk on, book in hand, happy as your next lovable eccentric.

Things I Like


Here are some normal things that I like:

  • the feeling I get after having done something useful
  • buying a book and then holding that book in my hands
  • walking through a place and filling my eyes full of the sights of it
  • listening to something mellow and sad-sounding
  • a smile from someone I love or someone who loves me
  • lazy, sunny afternoons when I have nothing to do
  • eating something deliciously sweet or deeply savoury.

What do you like?

Life by Squares – F5

More wanderings, photographs and a new grid reference from me.

I took (and shook) a couple of dice and they pointed me to F5 yesterday, so off I went:


Entering the area from James Street told me something about the map I was using: it was out of date. There are some new streets there and so I had a decision to make – should I stick with the map or let reality mould my meanderings. I chose map – mainly because it was almost zero celsius and there were a lot of streets already in this square. Mercy!

The first thing that took my attention was at the end of Elvington Terrace. The sun was trying to grapple its way through the clouds. I saw a skinny tree embracing the top of a church and so I tried to catch it all:


Well, two out of three ain’t bad – right?

Arbitrarily I decided that I would look for God on this trip. I had my doubts as to how successful I was going to be as I loaded up Spotify for the day with the 1Xtra Playlist, but as the first track began I knew I was onto something. It was God’s Plan by Drake. Nuff said.

So what’s up next? Ah yeah – a saint:


Yep, it’s the famous St. Farrar – patron saint of brick walls. No prizes for guessing which street this one was on.

Okay, moving swiftly on up the same street:


I just liked the perspective thing going on here – the way everything converges on one point. Well, on one little orange house. Anyway, some religions say that God isn’t so much an old bloke in the clouds but more like a point of light. Yeah, I know – it’s a kinda fragile way of sticking to a theme, but there you go.

I know what you’re thinking – just show me the trees, right? Here you go then:


In an area of back to back terraces, Bull Lane came as a bit of surprise because it featured a whole slew of nice, big trees running up the middle. Plus – bonus – there’s a few wee patches of blue sky here too!

It was at this point that I started to become aware that I would need to pee pretty soon and there were no toilets scattered in an amongst the trees. Ah to be a dog!

Half an hour later, I was way (way, way) out of my comfort zone and when I saw this sight off to the left of Heslington Road (the arrow on the map marks the spot) I had to go for it:


Just thank yourself lucky that I posted this shot rather than one of a wet patch on a fence and a puddle on the ground. And in case you’re wondering – yes, I washed my hands – the wet grass obliged very nicely thanks.

The toes of my boots did look rather spotted, though, when I emerged from the bushes. That could have been the wet grass, but either way – what a fantastic link to the next snap:


Geddit? My last name’s Day! Aw, c’mon!

The sun was going down as I headed home and so I couldn’t resist taking a few photographs of that. This, in my humble opinion, is the best of those:


It wasn’t in the grid-reference of the day (it was actually the view across Clifton Green) but still, it was a lovely note to end the walk on.

On a completely unrelated note – does anyone know why houses never seem to stand up straight in photographs? Are they drunk!

Life By Squares – A1

I have a week off work. Not going anywhere so I thought I’d see a little of where I live. I printed off a map from a handy website and, armed with a yellow highlighter pen, set off this morning – about an hour ago.

I’m now in the library (oh, sorry – Clifton Explore – after a re-branding exercise) – just off the top edge of this map:


As you can see, I’ve covered (and coloured) the first square.

I’ve taken the liberty of sharing some photographs I took as I wandered the streets in the rain – I hope you don’t mind. My soundtrack? Lee Child’s The Affair, which features Jack Reacher who, as I walked, made his second kill of the novel – righteously of course!

My first photo was taken halfway down Fairway and it was this one that set the tone and theme for the rest – the battle between man and nature:


Yeah, I know – it’s just a wall with moss on it, but think what it would be like in a few decades time if we all disappeared. I bet there’d be more moss than brick at that point.

Next up is a sad looking tree taken at the end of the short road off Rawcliffe Lane:


I don’t think it’s a (weeping) willow, but it looks to me like tears have fallen on the page and washed the branches downwards like ink running in the rain. Yeah, remind me not to try poetical again – it don’t suit me that much.

Next up is another tree that caught my attention on Shipton Road:


I just like how stark it is against the sky. If you work up a sweat in your imagination, you can see it as cracks in the sky. You’ll have to work real hard, though – these visions don’t come for free!

Taking a break from trees for a moment, at the end of that little dead-end off Shipton Road I snapped something that was much closer to my feet:


There’s so much in this snap – remnants of autumn (the brown leaves lain slain), intimations of spring (the green grass struggling through), the fertility of England (aka mud) and the don’t-care-about-any-of-that attitude of man (yep, you got it – the tyre-tracks). Never mind – in a couple of month, nature will have its way.

Back to the skies for the next photo, which was taken at the junction of the A19 and Malton Way:


Not so long back, this was a magnificent specimen of treeness – tall and proud – stretching toward the heavens – embracing the whole junction. And yet now? That said, though – even as a mere stump of its former glory, just think how many small, white cars you could fit inside it!

And finally, a photograph from this very building:


You could, if you were so inclined, say that this is where all the trees ended up (well, some of ’em) – bound and stacked on shelves – made to serve the needs of man. On the other hand – this is also our future. This is what we bequeath to the universe. This is our knowledge and our inheritance. Yay!

And now I’m trying to think of something catchy to say about the weight of angels, just to finish off the piece in a philosophically rounded way. But maybe you can help me with that. What do you think? Do angels watch over us at all? Or are we just heading down, down, down.

Hope you’re having a beautiful day – whatever the verdict.