Drifting and striding 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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


It was a warm afternoon in early September when I first met the Illustrated Man. Walking along an asphalt road, I was on the final leg of a two weeks’ walking tour of Wisconsin. Late in the afternoon I stopped, ate some pork, beans, and a doughnut, and was preparing to stretch out and read when the Illustrated Man walked over the hill and stood for a moment against the sky.” 

Those are the opening lines of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, a collection of linked short stories posing as a novel. I can’t say I’d forgotten the lines because I’ve never actually read the book from beginning to end, though I have read at least one of the stories it contains – ‘The Veldt.’   

But I have seen the movie and I have never forgotten the sight of Rod Steiger, all naked and tatted up. The book describes him as “a walking treasure gallery.”

Gotta say I didn’t know that people went to Wisconsin on walking tours, but it seems they very definitely do.  The state seems to be dense with walkers and walking trails.

         When I first lived in Los Angeles, Ray Bradbury was alive and well and doing a lot of public appearances around town, many of them in Glendale.  I don’t know how much of a walker he was but sometimes apparently he walked while wearing a suit, like this:

And I think he must have been rather proud of his legs, perhaps honed and toned by walking, because he was always showing them off in shorts; like this:

Tangentially I have been reading Museum Without Walls,some collected essays by another writer who also walks while wearing a suit, at least when the cameras are on him; Jonathan Meades, a man I can’t quite imagine in shorts.

In a piece on Ian Nairn, Meades writes of “the ever-increasing battalions of soi-disant psychogeographers - who are distinguished from plain geographers by neglecting to take their Largactil before they release themselves into the edgelands of Sharpness or the boondocks of Sheppey.”  

What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.

Largactil, as some of you will know, and some may not, is one of the trade names for Chloropromazine, an anti-psychotic.  Looks like good stuff:

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