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Those who have read my reviews before will know that how much I loved a book is evidenced by the number of pages with corners turned, so let me start this one with an apology to the Norfolk Library Service: sorry! I forgot it was your book not mine. In my defence, I will say that as a reader of this type of book there is something connective about noting where prior readers were inspired (provided it is subtle – I'll allow creased corners, but not scribbles – for the latter we must buy our own copy – which I am about to do as soon as I have finished telling you why).
Erligg Erling Kagge is a Norwegian explorer who has walked to the South Pole, the North Pole and the summit of Everest. He knows a thing or two about walking. However, this isn't a travelogue about any of those epic journeys, it is instead a thoughtful exploration of what it means to walk. It is a plenitude of unnumbered essays about walking. There is no 'contents' page and I haven't counted. In small format paperback, each essay is only a few pages long. Perhaps then, better thought of as a meditation rather than an essay.
Although by its nature informed by Kagge's own experience of walking – in the remote places of the Arctics and the unexpected places of subterranean New York and the byways of Los Angeles – it is primarily a justification for the art of doing so in more close-to-home scenarios. He talks engagingly of his walks in his local woods and how they differ from his walks in the city. He quotes extensively from other walkers from ancient Greek philosophers to modern authors and poets and astronauts.
He comments on the serial killer who identified potential victims by the way they walked. I don't know how much truth there is in that particular story, but a friend of a friend recounts his own experience of walking to work through London every day (in those pre-lockdown days). His commute took him past the same people every day, including street hustlers and beggars. He was seldom directly approached. Then one day he injured his arm and shoulder. With his arm strapped across his body, his gait was immediately more 'closed in' and signalling of vulnerability. Many of those hustlers and beggars who had left him alone, now directly approached and impeded his progress with their demands. This isn't to criticise any of those people on the streets of London (echoes of Ralph McTell !) but to underline that how we walk sends out signals that are read either overtly or subliminally by those we meet.
In a less threatening environment we meet a theatre director who focuses on how his actors/characters walk and move as embodying more than the movement, a conversation which brings Kagge back to one of his themes which relates to speed and time. The more slowly we go, the more time we have, would be a reasonably summation. We notice more when we go slow. And time seems to expand in order to enable us to do so. We experience time in fractions of seconds, and the more we experience within those fractions the more expansive time becomes.

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