‘Walking is special’, writes Geoff Nicholson, ‘but it’s not strange’. This unpretentious attitude is characteristic of The Lost Art of Walking, which, unlike many accounts of the subject, is both sympathetic to walking as an everyday activity and wary of overbearing attempts to elevate it into a sporting, spiritual or intellectual endeavour. Although Nicholson’s own pedestrian adventures are extensive, ranging from crafty walkabouts on company time to reckless ‘pottering about’ in the Australian Outback, he refuses to take his walking too seriously and, with a likeable mixture of fascination and bathos, provides an entertaining commentary on walkers who do. Readers who expect him to follow the ambitious brief set out in his subtitle will be disappointed: it’s probably better to read it as a parody of a vaunting academic monograph.
Of course, that rambling subtitle is also a joke about how elusive walking can be when we try to fix it in a written form. Nicholson is certainly more interested in the detour than the destination, meandering between his own well-observed anecdotes and a vast range of cultural