Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, 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.
Showing posts with label Arianna Huffington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arianna Huffington. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


And who can speak of Arianna Huffington, as I was a few posts back, without thinking of Bernard Levin.  They used to date, back in the day, and Arianna has been known to describe the relationship as a “liberal education.”  Good enough!

These days Levin feels like a sixties character – (though he didn’t die till 2004)  and not the groovy sort.  He was a David Frost alumnus, and a sort of public intellectual (remember them?) but one who had the knack of sounding fairly right wing even while expressing fairly left wing views.

He created various books and TV programs that involved walking. One was Hannibal's Footsteps (1985) in which Levin walked the rout Hannibal supposedly took when he invaded Italy in 218 BC.  

Another was A Walk Up Fifth Avenue (self-explanatory) from 1989.

Levin also wrote a book titled Enthusiasms (1983), and one of his enthusiasms was walking.  He writes about doing a “serpentine” walk along the Thames, crossing the river each time he comes to a bridge.  (The question of how many Thames crossings there are, and how many of them are in “London” is incredibly vexed – just Google it.)   Levin crossed the river 16 times – this was before the Millennium Bridge was built.  His walk covered 14 miles and required him to make 30,000 steps.

He writes, “We who walk for pleasure alone must never allow ourselves to think teleologically; our pleasure is in the walking, and in that alone, and we have no need to seek outside the walking for any justification for it.”

Well I agree of course, I am no teleologist, and I don’t think walking needs any justification, but I do like to look at things while walking (Levin says that he never looks at anything at all) and I think that walking is also an act of exploration and observation, being part of the environment not a thing apart from it.

In A Walk Up Fifth Avenue he also writes of being at the Tiffany Ball (whatever that may be) and afterwards he decided to walk from 59th Street where the event took place at the Plaza Hotel to his own hotel on 76th.   His fellow guests were horrified.  (This must have been an old story from pre-1989, surely.  Things wre getting much better by then).  Still, Levin writes, “Their belief in my insanity was based on an unshakeable belief that what I was proposing to do was unacceptably dangerous. And I was inexcusably irresponsive, even if not suicidal.”  It’s not clear in the book whether he did the walk or not, but either way he lived to tell the tale, which is as much as most walkers hope for.

Teleology aside, Levin was famous for writing heroically long and convoluted sentences.  Harold Evans, who was briefly Levin's editor at The Times, said that his sentences were like walking along the corridors of a Venetian palace: "You know there is something good at the end, but occasionally your feet ache getting there."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I don’t know if you’ve come across Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive.  It has an initially baffling subtitle “The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder”  Third metric?  Well, apparently it’s a metaphor based on the milking stool – you need that third leg to have a solid foundation.   Although of course when you’re walking you only need two.  But maybe I'm being too literal.

There’s a chapter in the book titled “Walk This Way” (not a reference to Aerosmith and Run DMC as far as I can tell).  Arianna is a great walker apparently.  When she lived in Los Angeles she got many of her best ideas while hiking.  A lot of the planning for the Huffington Post was done on hikes.  When she was pregnant she walked around the grounds of the LA hotel she was staying in.  And no, I don’t know why she was staying in an LA hotel during her pregnancy.  And no, I haven't been able to find a good picture of her walking.

In that walking chapter she quotes Cavafy, Thomas Jefferson, Hemingway, Thoreau and “British author Geoff Nicholson.”  “Words inscribe a text in the same way that a walk inscribes space,” he says.  “Writing is one way of making the world our own, and … walking is another.”

Naturally I’m not going to argue with that, since I wrote it, but I thought it might be instructive to point out that the quotation in full runs, “Modern literary theory sees a similarity between walking and writing that I find persuasive: words inscribe a text in the same way that a walk inscribes space. In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel De Certeau writes, 'The act of walking is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian; it is a special acting-out of the place ... and it implies relations among differentiated positions.' I think this is a fancy way of saying that writing is one way of making the world our own, and that walking is another.”  Arianna must have thought that even mentioning De Certeau was too fancy.  That's him below, walking.

Oh, and if you think I’m being a little presumptuous by referring to Ms. Huffington as Arianna – trust me, we’re on first name terms.  She sent me an advanced proof copy of her book, along with this card:

Online evidence suggests it’s her actual signature.  That’s what I call attention to detail.  I also read on her Twitter feed, and elsewhere, that she describes herself as a “flat shoe advocate” – well nobody’s perfect.