A stunningly beautiful day: cold, but with bright blue skies and when you in it the sun was warm. Octavia and I met and went for a walk. There has been a short series on BBC4 this week called Winter Walks. Five well known figures have gone for a walk alone but with a camera recording a 360° view of what they saw. I have seen three of the five programmes. Don’t think car chases, or indeed anything fast, though one farmer had a fine collection of old tractors he was happy to talk about with Lemn Sissay. In some ways it reminded me of those short filler pieces between programmes back when all television was in black and white, things lies a pot being thrown. Slow, mesmeric, and somehow deeply pleasing. the filming has been edited down to thirty minutes per programme. when I have finished writing this post, I shall probably watch the two remaining episodes. The fact that the words Series 1 follow the title means, I hope that there will be more. I was struck by how in the three I have seen (Lemn Sissay, Simon Armitage and Richard Coles) at some point each muses on the power of walking and landscape to soothe, to heal, to inspire and to calm. I shall be shocked if Selina Scott and Sayeeda Warsi say anything to the contrary. The programmes made me more than ever want to get my boots on and get out into the country, but with strict instructions to stay local, Cynthia and I are planning an urban walk from our front doors to Norwood cemetery next week. we need to plot a route. The most direct way is along main roads, but they will be the most polluted, so we would be better sticking to side streets, housing estates and parks. It’s going to be an adventure.
Still thinking about walking and how my daily lockdown walks are the highlight of each day, I recalled another television programme from some years ago called Brat Camp. Difficult teenagers, selfish, insecure in some cases, often troubled, sometimes spoiled, all of whom were in conflict with parents, school and other authority, were taken off to a wilderness where hiking through the days and spending their nights under the stars, they learned self-reliance, self-respect and survival skills. In the short term it seemed to work, though I should like to know how they fared in the following years. I am sure some fell back into old ways and for others it marked a turning point in their lives. How about Overweaning Politician Camp? Trump, Johnson, Bolsinaro, Farage and Erdogan could be the first recruits. Brat Camp was a much kinder programme than say Big Brother, as that programme relished human weakness, whereas the thrill of Brat Camp was seeing the gradual transformation of the teenagers, who despite themselves began to love the great outdoors, the simplicity of their wilderness existence, and to appreciate what they had to offer the world. I used to discuss it with a psychotherapist friend who had been fairly sceptical about the idea when she first read of it, but we both found we were cheering those troubled teens on, willing them to succeed.
The idea that some of our worst politicians and their supporters might walk them selves back to a more balanced state of mind is one I find deeply appealing. And I should derive no little comfort at the outset of their travels to see Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel and Michael Gove with the backpacks loaded walking up a steep hill with map and compass.
Stay safe. Keep well. Enjoy your walks.