The Ministry of Silly Walks



Still a bit wobbly at this point, but look ma, no walking stick!

Some thoughts about walking:


  • I’ve just subscribed to Rob Walker’s Art of Noticing newsletter, which today recommended Elastic City‘s book Prompts for Participatory Walks. Since it sounded relevant for several projects, I ordered a copy and unduly complicated the procedure, leading to an exchange of emails in which I was at least able to clarify for the pleased but startled Elastic City the probable reason for a sudden surge in orders.
  • Years ago I was sketching in San Francisco and a man stopped to chat and ended up taking me on a short walking tour of various Painted Ladies and other significant buildings. He usually specialised in tours of the San Francisco watershed (ThinkWalks). And Katharine and Matt and I loudly discussed spurious histories in the hopes of misleading other tourists.
KJennings-San Francisco-2012-Page24


  • The Elastic City project reminds me in turn of Joël Henry‘s collaboration with Lonely Planet, the charming The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel. I enjoyed this for the stories it suggested as much as the ideas: I wanted to read about people finding each other in unlikely ways, or someone earnestly sightseeing through Melbourne on a penny-farthing. The book seems to be out of print, although there are some ideas on the Latourex site and the Lonely Planet travel blog: 7 ways to experiment with travel.

Teenage magpie hiding under a beehive, in the rain

  • I’m also reading a book Terri Windling recommended to me, Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City She lent it to me in Dartmoor, when I was going out (being taken out) walking on the moors or through fields nearly every day, and it was both affirming (I adore Dartmoor and love walking there, but so many books about Walking™ are about the wild, and I also quite like cities) and set up a bit of cognitive dissonance (being very much not in a city at the time).

It’s always “caterpillar grass” to me


He gave up. There’s still just an alley of mown grass through the middle of this backyard forest.

  • I’ve been thinking about this because I’m just getting back to walking regularly after being laid-up. My doctor wants me to go swimming but I’m staunchly resisting, even if it means walking in rainstorms and crouching down to watch earthworms, and trailing home wringing wet.

No-one else was using the swing.

  • I’ve been keeping an observation journal for a project, and while I’ve been walking the same suburban circuit, it really is marvellous how many new things there are to notice each day. How quickly the teenage magpies grow up (they’re twitchy New Adults now, unsupervised, and look like they put their whites through the laundry with their dark clothes). What the spiders are doing. How the tiny soccer players follow their teenage coach like ducklings and gather around to take off his hat and play with his hair when he kneels down to talk to them. How some thoughts and memories get stored on a walk, and I only rediscover them when I revisit that ibis-tree, those bent reeds with their cross-hatched ripples. I don’t take a phone or notebook with me, but I list the things I remember when I get home.
  • And the students are returning to campus, which means all sorts of interactions to see and overhear while strolling through the Great Court, people stalking corellas with their phones, societies recruiting on Market Day…

Obviously I had my sketchbook with me at this point.

  • I like ambling, not bounding up mountains. I like games without scoring. I like walking without having to take a survival kit. I like pocket-sized adventures.


2 thoughts on “The Ministry of Silly Walks

  1. Pingback: February post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s