Look at this blog go …. all organised and snappy with the days of the week. FIrst of all there is a regular Friday writing exercise, and now a weekly Sports(woman) Sunday. This gives me the chance to talk more about women and sport, look at the opportunities and praise the wonderful. And there are so so so many. As always I’m doing this mostly for me – the chance to find out more and keep information in one place, but hopefully there will be something for others too. Let me know what sports work for you, or otherwise. Let me know your successes and hopes. And stories. But first of all – WALKING WOMEN!
Now, as you might notice from the dates in the poster above, the special Women Walking event as part of Somerset House’s Utopia 2016 festival, is nearly over but there are still things you can do, walking women you can follow, and inspiration to be taken. After all, here’s the quote used in the publicity:
The invisibility of women in what appears as a canon of walking is conspicuous; where they are included, it is often as an ‘exception’ to an unstated norm, represented by a single chapter in a book or even a footnote. Heddon and Turner (2012) ‘Walking Women: Shifting the Tales and Scales of Mobility’ Contemporay Theatre Review, Vol. 22(2), 2012, p. 225
I couldn’t resist that. When I went along to the exhibition, I tried out Jennie Savage‘s recorded walk – leaving Somerset House to follow her instructions through the headphones (turn left, now next right etc etc)
Listening to Jennie’s observations of a very different walk while carrying out my own was a strange experience. Apart from refusing to turn right, turn right, because that would have taken me into the Thames….
…rather than being distracting, the dual narrative – Jennie’s and my own on the ground – meant I noticed things I might not otherwise. First of all there was the tribe of other walkers – on every level.
And then I started to make connections in the walk, mapping it if you like. For example, I came across this statue I’d never noticed before, perhaps because while I have walked these paths so many times before – it’s always been with a purpose. And if I’m honest, I’m usually late for that purpose so rushing.
A fascinating man, W T Stead. I looked him up when I got home, and boy, is there a novel to be written about him! Not just professionally – although, apparently, ‘He was influential in demonstrating how the press could be used to influence public opinion and government policy, and advocated “Government by Journalism“. He was also well known for his reportage on child welfare, social legislation and reformation of England’s criminal codes.’ But he also died on the Titanic, was obsessed by spiritualism, and knew much about the ‘dark underbelly’ of Victorian times. This plaque is a replica of one in New York.
But this information was all found out by letting my fingers ‘walk’ on the internet afterwards. On my actual walk, turn left, thinking about journalists, I also noticed these…
So much news, so many empty boxes – funnily enough just at the moment, Jennie was talking through my headphones about passing a newsagents. And then back at Somerset House to return my headphones, paying a little more attention about where I was walking, I started thinking about how many people had climbed down these stairs to mark and smooth them so…
Some of you may recognise them as the Stamp Stairs. I’ve gone up and down them many times, but not really looked at their history. And hey, this is where all newspapers in Britain had to be ‘stamped’ to indicate that the correct tax had been paid. So all newspapers in the country had to be brought to Somerset House to be individually stamped here until 1855, when the duty on newspapers was removed.
News, news, news. Amazing what you pick up from walking. BUT… why walking women and not just walking?
I find this fascinating – this Canadian report of a discussion of the difficulties and challenges in planning a gendered city shows some of the reasons. After all, a ‘streetwalker’ might be an historic term, but it is telling one. Because there’s no doubt that men and women experience walking in any space – city or countryside – in very different ways, and to be honest, much of the current literature is about men walking.
A major inspiration for me is the writer and walker, Linda Cracknell. She knows how to walk – read her books! Recently on Facebook, she talked about women walking and camping on their own, with particular reference to a wonderful experience she had had. Oh, I replied, I’d love to have the courage to do that. And so apparently did many other women. So Linda wrote this beautiful piece giving advice about just how and why women can become more adventurous solo walkers:
So that’s something for me in the future. But in the meantime, I might follow another of the great ideas (from Amy Sharrocks) in the Walking Women event – to buy a bus ticket and see where I go, and then walk back…
And I’ve ordered this book… I promise it is not just for the ‘Chip Walk’ although….