The Joy of Sticks

Before I started this walk it was a toss-up as to whether or not I’d take walking poles. In the end I chose not to for three reasons: first, the weight; second, I’d mostly, I believed, be walking on flat roads; and third, the impression they give. You know what I mean. When you see someone strolling down an urban road, swiftly moving along with two poles, who doesn’t sneer “tosser”? Of course you do.

But this doesn’t mean I’m not missing the sticks. The day before my leg first went pop a Frenchman on a bicycle pointed out a walking cane lying in the road. I picked it up. It was black and, with my hat and similarly black clothing, I thought I looked rather dapper. I didn’t. I looked like a tramp with a stick, but never mind.

For a while I even blamed the stick for my injury. Maybe it had caused me to change my gait and unbalanced myself. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t walk any more.

Of course, it wasn’t the reason. Once recovered, I continued to walk with the stick, accidentally leaving it behind at a cash machine as I collected funds, and the leg still went pop a few days later.

But rather than go for the dandy look, this week I tried a variation. Walking through a forest I found on the ground the perfect staff, the sort of thing a great wizard would employ. It was nearly the same height as me and had the sort of girth with which you could beat someone to death.

But it didn’t have the effect I was looking for. As I imagined that, along with my floppy hat, I was strolling through the forest looking like Gandalf, the impression I made in town was somewhat different.

One woman clocked me, shrieked inaudibly and instantly fled to the other side of the street. Others, both male and female, looked at me like I was mentally ill. In the end I had to give up the pole for fear of being reported to the fuzz.

So it seems, whatever stick variety you choose, someone somewhere is going to look at you and think “tosser”. Or, in some cases, “dangerously unstable bloke who looks like he’s about to brain me”.

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