Before I married my caucasian husband (I don’t mean I have other non-caucasian husbands), I never knew anything about walking. In my previous life living in a hot and humid country, walking was a mere necessity — walking to school, market, to shops. Only poor people walked. People with a bit of money would travel by car. Walkng itself didn’t carry a status of pride or defeat. It was just a fact of life. I never walked for pleasure. There wasn’t even a culture of eulogising walking. When the sun was out, we hid. When we had to walk under the sun, we did the most sensible thing — walking and hiding in the safe haven of an umbrella. However, after living in England for a while, I was surprised to know of a professional group of people called ramblers. I needed to look this word up in a dictionary. I used to ask, what do ramblers do? My husband would reply, “They walk.”
Walkers’ joy and glory
I was even more astonished to find shelves of books for ‘rambling’ in bookshops. How much could one write about ‘walking’? I always wonder. But here in the UK, some people don’t walk for necessity. They walk for pleasure, and some walk for glory. They would regale me with their fine details in walking. “I easily walked 5 miles the other day, first cutting through wood A and wood B, entering village C, discovering an old railway line, walking along canal D, passing through churchyard F, finding a well-hidden wood G, appreciating the water meadows H, getting a bit lost somehow, but I had such an amazing navigation skill that I took a detour, following my six sense, cutting through village I, where I came across some very nice houses JKLMN…..how could people be so rich, so filthy? Can you imagine that? How could people live in mansions? Look at their massive gardens, swimming pools ……
For some people, being able to walk miles in one stretch on a regular basis is an achievement. It proves their determination and good health. It shows off their navigation skill. It also proves that they may have a bit more time to enjoy nature, the wonder of woodlands, unlike inferior people, who are more drawn to Ikea and John Lewis and are lost in the hustle and bustle of life without being able to appreciate the goodness from walking, namely nature, good health, imagination and navigation.
Dead or lost in the wood
I do go for occasional walks, but I enjoy a less competitive type of walking. My husband knows that I’m not a master in navigation, actually I’m very scared of the wood. When I was a child, I heard stories about murders and arrests in the wood in Malaysia. A lady in our village was murdered in a rubber plantation and it actually took a medium to reveal her exact location to the police. My neighbour’s husband ‘disappeared’ in the wood one day, in the 70s, as he was suspected of supplying food to the communists. He simply vanished from the wood for at least a decade. I remembered watching his wife shriek and thump her fists on her chest and this family had about 10 children to feed.
I’m most uncomfortable in a dense wood where there are too many possibilities. I don’t enjoy choices. I’m the kind of person who stick to the same brand of shampoo, washing-up liquid, laundry powder and sanitary towel: “in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.” I struggle in a huge shop where there’re 50 different options for the same item. Because of my inability to take the lead, my husband normally takes charge in the wood. As long as we walk out of the wood alive, safe from attacks from over-friendly, gigantic dogs, or annoying spoilt dogs that like to sniff or jump on me, or self-righteous dog-walkers who try to stop us and praise their most well-behaved dogs who would never ever hurt anyone in the world, so continuing allow their dogs to jump on me and leave some muds on my jacket, I really don’t mind being led in the wood. The world doesn’t need too many leaders.