The Walk Has It

I twisted my knee walking next door’s dog last week. My welly got stuck in the mud; she carried on walking, my knee didn’t. So I’ve been bandaged up and walking gingerly for the past few days.

Which led me to looking at the way people walk and what it tells the writer about them. I am a fit, active person, yet one minor accident had me walking like an old lady. Small, tentative steps. Embarrassing wobbles when the knee gave way. Winces when I twisted it, the pain showing in gritted teeth and tight frowns. The key for me was the care I took to avoid anything which might cause me to swerve or stop suddenly.

Young people, fit people, walk carelessly. There may be a swagger or a slouch or a quick nimbleness to their movements but they don’t think about getting around- they just do it. Some people walk on the balls of their feet, bouncing along. These days many people use their phones as they walk, only the push and sway of the walking mob keeping them from accident. Others trudge with their heads down and shoulders slumped, but what I saw was that we reveal our attitudes and our fears through our walk. Useful? Oh, yes.

So I had a think about the protagonist in a short story I have just started. She’s heavily pregnant at twenty and finding life difficult. I sat in the window of a coffee shop in Taunton for an hour and watched pregnant people (and other people too). The slightly backwards leaning gait, legs apart (to provide balance?), the stroking , clutching and patting of the belly; the pushing back of the hair and fanning of the too hot face; the slowness of the walk so at odds with the youth and beauty in the face. Yes – the hope and fear is clearly written when we think we are not being observed. I think I can write her now.

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