Late last year, as some of you may recall, I sort of Dropped My Shit for awhile and went a bit loopy. Thanks to some severe sleep deprivation and some ill adviced vices I basically turned into a sleepless, weeping, regularly quite, quite drunk zombie prone to bursting into tears at shampoo commercials and ill-advised phonecalls/emails at three in the morning.
And it was around that lovely time that I became quite a fan of walking. Or, should I say, of rambling. Because there’s no lycra, sneakers or hand weights in what I do: it’s more about going for what my Grandma would probably call A wee stroll. At least maybe she would if she were scottish.
I started rambling partly in an attempt to tire my body sufficiently that It would motherfucking let me get some goddamn sleep (mixed results on that front) but I kept doing it because it’s surprisingly enjoyable. But you have to do it right.
The Ramble is different to The Walk in many respects. For a start you need a destination, even if that destination is as dull as the library, the shops or, if you’re lucky, the pub. Admit that you’re heading out just for the hell of it and you break the first rule of rambling: go somewhere, just go slow. The art of the ramble exists in taking your sweet arse time to get somewhere else where you’re going to do absolutely nothing of much consequence. One doesn’t ramble to a job interview or en route to the weekly Big Shop – you can walk, sure, but it’s simply not the same.
Similarly one can’t, for instance, ramble in the morning before work, or at night after work: you need time and no fixed deadline to be anywhere important for a couple of hours. An ipod is optional and sunglasses are a must so you can check out fellow ramblers without being spotted. Supplies are essential to enable you to do what you fancy: whether it’s reading your book in the sun for a bit or slipping in a cheeky shandy. You certainly need money because popping in and out of shops you never knew existed to buy things you almost certainly don’t need is another key plank in the rambling manifesto. Without money, again, I’m Sorry you may well be having a grand old time but you’re actually on a walk, not a ramble.
Circuitous routes are favoured, as there’s nothing more depressing and less in the spirit of rambling than slugging your way along a three lane road while car exhaust clogs your pores. You don’t need to be scaling fences or, heaven forfend, stick to designated walking tracks but a saunter via a parks or an interesting back street renders any outing at least 3.75 times more enjoyable as a straight trudge along bitumen. And that’s just science.
Finally, it was good ol’ Nietzsche who said all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking and while I apologise for quoting him because there are few things that come off quite as wanky as quoting Nietzsche on anything (I may as well just wear a black beret and smoke moodily right now) I think he had a fair point. But the very last thing you must do on a ramble is Try to Think. Rambling is an activity that requires little thought and should therefore be treated as such. Go rambling in an attempt to break writer’s block or Make a Big Decision and you will return weeping in either rage or frustration – neither of which could rightly be termed particularly ramblelike by any definition of this (partly-made-up) term you should choose to use.