That’s what Margot Gerster said happened to her, and I have no good reason to doubt her, although the claims that this was some kind of PR stunt are, I think, understandable.
Gerster wrote on her Facebook page, “'I've been feeling so heartbroken since yesterday's election and decided what better way to relax than take my girls hiking.
'So I decided to take them to one of favorite places in Chappaqua. We were the only ones there and it was so beautiful and relaxing.
“As we were leaving, I heard a bit of rustling coming towards me and as I stepped into the clearing there she was, Hillary Clinton and Bill with their dogs doing exactly the same thing as I was.
“I got to hug her and talk to her and tell her that one of my most proudest moments as a mother was taking Phoebe with me to vote for her.
“She hugged me and thanked me and we exchanged some sweet pleasantries and then I let them continue their walk.”
Well what else would you do? But still, a couple of matters arise. First, it must be said that Hillary Clinton is looking surprising cheerful given recent events, and although we do know that walking is very good for depression, I still don’t think I’d be looking quite that sunny immediately after my presidential campaign had floundered on the treacherous rocks of Trumpism.
I also wonder who took the picture. Was it Bill? Or was it a bodyguard? I imagine that even in the woods near Chappaqua, the Clintons travel with a pretty serious security detail.
There’s a lot in the press lately about women walking, not least the book by Lauren Elkin Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London The book isn’t published yet in the United States and I’m too mean to buy a hardback copy from England but I’ll get it soon, no doubt.
The author’s website says, “Flâneuse is a cultural history of women writers and artists who have found personal freedom as well as inspiration by engaging with cities on foot, and includes chapters on Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Sophie Calle, and Agnès Varda, among others. The London Evening Standard says, “larded with examples.”
We all know that women face certain, let’s call them challenges, when out walking, especially while walking alone, although walking alone doesn't necessarily solve much. And in one of those odd, serendipitous moments I happened to be reading a piece in the book Hoo-Hahs and Passing Frenzies, Francis Wheen’s collected journalism from 1991-2001, in which he discusses Who’s Who and Debrett’s People of Today, and has great fun noting people’s “recreations.”
As someone who has a nodding acquaintanceship with a certain kind of literary “fame,” I wasn’t entirely surprised to find I’d had some small dealings with a couple of the people he mentions in the article, both of them in Who’s Who, both of them women, both of them apparently walkers.
One is Emma Tennant, that's her above, who simply listed “walking around” as a recreation. It so happens I was once in the frame to write a short story for a collection she was editing. I don’t think it ever appeared, or if it did I certainly wasn’t in it, but she invited me to her house in Notting Hill for discussions and whisky, and she and I certainly walked the length of her hall, once in each direction.
Rather more fun is Deborah Moggach – and nobody has ever denied that Deborah Moggach is a lot of fun – and she lists one of recreations as “walking around London looking into people’s windows.” Well yes. Who doesn’t do that given half a chance? But how many admit it?
Ms. Moggach and I have definitely walked some short distances on the streets of London together, but we never found anybody’s window to look into. Shame.
A long time ago I had a friend, Patrick, who was at Cambridge University at the same time as Prince Charles, in the early 1970s. On one occasion in the early hours of the morning Patrick was walking home from some bacchanal and turned a corner and there heading towards him was Charles, also walking home from some other bacchanal. They didn’t speak (much less exchange sweet pleasantries) but they acknowledged each other’s existence and the prince gave a shrug and a small jerk of the head indicating a man walking some twenty feet behind him: a bodyguard. He looked deeply and suitably embarrassed.
This is pretty much the only positive story I’ve ever heard about Charles. And I just found the picture below, taken in 1970 apparently. There’s the prince walking with Lord Mounbatten, and behind him are couple of royal subjects. That’s how young men looked in 1970. Nobody has ever accused Charles of trying to appear like a man of the people. Maybe he needed a woman to walk with.