The English Like to Walk

03 Aug

When I was a little kid and all stocked up on Enid Blytons, whenever I’d get mad at my parents I’d sit in my room and brood about ways to make them sorry for whatever crime it was they’d committed against me. A lot of it was painful stuff – like crying till my eyes fell out or refusing to come out of the room until they were begging and pleading for a glimpse of my beloved face or just going on a hunger strike so they’d watch me turn into an emaciated corpse in front of their eyes.

None of these plans ever came to fruition, however, because I love myself too much. Plus, I can’t cry for all that long, I get cabin fever quite quickly and I love to eat – especially when my mother is cooking.

So then I’d plan on running away. I wasn’t really sure where I’d go (the neighbor’s house? they had good chocolate there. My best friend’s? it could be the world’s longest sleepover) because the kids in Blyton’s novels were all planning to join the circus and while I like animals, I had a strong suspicion that all opening jobs in the circus involved shoveling poop and there was no way I was gonna do that.

I was all ready, set, go to be an Inquilab Zindabad-i as long as I didn’t have to strain my voice or get all sweaty about it, you know?

Nevertheless, one day my parents finally went too far – I don’t remember now what they did but they probably refused to let me eat pastries for dinner or something equally heinous coz that’s what passes for mean and nasty around the Rajan household – and I decided I’d show them! I’d show them all!

So I grabbed my favorite survival guide (The Princess of the Chalet School) and set off. Missing the key survivalist ingredient of that particular book – an affectionate, wise St. Bernard Jo Bettany had personally saved from an untimely end at the hands of starving Tyrolese goatherds while he was still a puppy – I decided to make do with second best. I took with me: a torch for when it got dark, my mother’s skirt to make me look older (in case the po-po got suspicious, see?), painstakingly saved pocket money (Rs. 20) and two giant wedges of apple strudel from Wenger’s to fight off the hunger pangs. I left one piece behind for my brother who hadn’t done anything to piss me off and thus deserved some comfort in the dark days to follow my dramatic disappearance.

I’m a very generous person, really.

Thus burdened, I made it all the way across the complex, within sight of the main gates, when I realized the great big flaw of these escape plans: the walking.

I mean! How long are you supposed to keep that shit up?

Kevin Smith is making a funny in the video above when he says the Lord of the Rings movies are basically a trilogy about a bunch of people walking to a mountain before some of them get on a boat (so sorry if I spoiled it for the three lazy bastards out there who still haven’t seen them) but you know what? I can’t talk with any great authority about English novels today but the quintessential English novel of yesteryear inevitably included extended scenes of walking. It’s a very English thing.

It doesn’t matter when the book was written or whether there were alternate modes of transport available – the Englishman and the Englishwoman will eventually arrive at a point in the story when nothing will do for them but to take a walk. Think about it:

Almost every pivotal scene featuring Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice involves walking in some way – she finds out about his perfidy while walking in the woods and returns home to tell him off, they meet again while she’s walking around his house and estate, and they finally confess their feelings for each other… when they’re on a walk. Together.

In Jane Eyre, Jane first bumps into Mr. Rochester when she’s walking the countryside at twilight, and when she leaves him she initially gets on a stage but then gets off it and walks until she drops unconscious! And when she finally returns to him? She walks, walks, and then runs to his house.

And those are just examples from the bulwarks of romance – think of anybody else you like, from Tolkein to Shakespeare to Alistair McLean to C.S.Lewis to E.Nesbit to, heck, J.K.Rowling – as big a variety as you like. More often than not, they walk around an awful lot.

As for little Indian me, I made my way over to my favorite Aztec pyramid (our complex was one of those late 70s / early 80s experiments in modern architecture) in one of the inner blocks, settled myself comfortably with my book, ate my strudel and went back home an hour past curfew to be greeted with cries of relief and good-natured scolding.


PS – did you know Helena Bonham Carter is going to play Blyton for BBC Four this year?


Posted by on August 3, 2009 in Books, Life, Personal, Video


Tags: , , ,

18 responses to “The English Like to Walk

  1. memsaab

    August 3, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Hilarious as always 🙂 Helena Bonham Carter as Enid Blyton???? Is her husband directing it? *crosses fingers*

  2. pitu

    August 3, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I have always maintained that in my previous life I was an old apple-cheeked English lady who wore chintz aprons and a straw hat and lived in Surrey with a pack of dogs who walked with me everywhere. I am not gori and I have only 1 doggy but Hunny and I walk for 1.5 hrs every single day, come rain or shine. It’s good thinking time. And it’s fun. And it builds calf muscles. It is interesting you mention all those books because I just bought a copy of my beloved Wuthering Heights and there’s tons of walking in that as well. Hehe. BTW, this is tangential but you MUST READ ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart. Nobody can transport you to quaint English villages like she can. Nobody!

  3. Blight-un

    August 3, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Eeeeeee. I love to slowly slide down the totem pole of time, like this, every once in a while, especially to go enjoy Enid Blyton memories!! Mr. Pink-Whistle was my intro to the deliciousness that’s the Blyton universe. It was also the first time I looked up the word “queer” in the dictionary (she must have used that a hundred times in her books and now… Noooo…I refuse to think of good ol’ PW as gay…to the child in me, queer has but one connotation — weirdly wonderful!).

    And don’t tell me, your lazy butt hates walking? And here I was, wondering what would be the right moment to extend an open invitation to hike up the wonderful Back Roads in these parts! You and your privileged Aztec-pyramid upbringing, I swear. 😀 They should have raised you in sweltering Chennai, and made you walk those 30 minutes (one way) to school each day, like I did!!

    And speaking of Smith and Trilogy, as of last week, I’m officially initiated into his raunchy, hermetically sealed universe of lovely ribald, having only heard about it all this while — yes, Chasing Amy happened, and I’m all the better for it! Now to see if I can lay hands on the rest of the Jersey Trilogy.

    P.S: “Even the effing trees walk,” he says, of LOTR…LOL!!!

  4. maidinmalaysia

    August 3, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    I tried looking for the chalet series here in KL — there are still so many that i haven’t gotten my hands on. are they available online?

    I myself was a prefect — who didn’t swear and knew which language day it was.
    I loved the lovely names — elinor, frieda, margot, helena, cornelia, the robin

  5. Gradwolf

    August 3, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    I love to walk! And yes, I’ve always wondered about all that walking in LOTR. I mean, how MUCH they walk! Especially after seeing Christopher Tolkien’s maps. :O

    Oh, am quite kicked by Helena Bonham Carter playing Blyton. I shared the news with a friend who kept complaining how Bellatrix Lestrange was enacted so so badly. He is an Enid Blyton fan. His reaction: joy to the world.

  6. sachita

    August 4, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Their estates were huge enough that a walk to a neighbor’s house sounded like walk to a neighbor village. Walking was the only thing those English people did bravely, remember all the fainting? they would probably faint on spotting a mosquito. Every one walked those days, just that others didn’t bother to write it up as charmingly as the English did.

    I can walk, walk till I am hungry or I am about to die. Can Some one give me a time travel ticket to 18th century England, now?

    Oh, i am not lazy when it comes to reading but I am staying off the LOTR or any fantasy story unless otherwise it was fed to me when I was 5-9.

  7. DewdropDream

    August 4, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I visited an English family for Christmas one year and it’s very true. They LOVE to go for walks!!!

    You can sort of see why because there isn’t much else to do really (unless you’re grown up, in which case, the local pub is your hangout now and forever).

    Helena Bonham Carter is also playing the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I cannot wait to watch that!!!!

    • pitu

      August 4, 2009 at 10:50 am

      NO! Why oh why oh why do they go around making movies outta books? It’s so irritating! They’re making Whr the wild things r wala movie as well. Meh 😦

      • Aster-Oh-no-my

        August 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm

        Where have you been livin’, lady? Under some beeg rock? You clearly are oblivious to the fact that we had a (selective) asteroid-apocalypse, couple years back, ya know.

        A 24-billion-kg asteroid attacked our puny planet, practically wiping out all screenwriters worth their salt, leaving behind only people with zero imagination and well, lots and lots of old classics. But worry not, for word is out that there may well be a few writers out there who may have “tricked” the asteroid-assassin into thinking that they are challenged on the fantasy front, by temporarily (thanks to ESP and all that) redirecting their imagination (not to mention intellect) to “lofty” pursuits like squishing bothersome ants, blinding deers with dome-sized headlights before mowing them down…ya know the drill. (Psst, people. That asteroid is long gone. You can stop pretending now and start unleashing some of that originality inside that outsized head of yours . Hear me or what? Helloo, Hell Ho…)

        • Amrita

          August 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

          I’ve actually heard some very good things about Where the Wild Things Are. It’s one of those made-for-adults-who-remember kind of kiddie movies. The one I expect to suck is the Harvey remake by Steven Speilberg.

          Um, would this be a bad time to bring up the Fantastic Mr. Fox thing? From “the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” dontcha know?

          • FanTaStick-ally Speaking

            August 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

            Ooooh wheee. Forget all the asteroid bullshit that I made up, ya know, to humor Pituji. “I’m standing here bowl in hand and shamelessly asking for more” Fantastic book adaptations! Bring ’em on! (But please-oh-please peepull, don’t do what you did to Dahl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — the one movie that I thought sucked big time. Something about the visuals was completely off…the colors, the costumes, it all seemed blindingly, brilliantly overdone.)

            And oh, I have no idea about Harvey (a Pulitzer-winning play, is it?)…the first I heard of it was yesterday (look who’s been livving under beeg rock!). Bad news, eh?

            The only prayer for folks re-making these fabulosities is that they keep in mind the working principle of the FanTaStick. (What be this contraption, you ask? Musically speaking, it is “an under-saddle transducer that was developed to transmit the real guitar sound, with all its natural frequencies, directly from the source of the sound.” In plain-speak, that’s hi-fidelity to the spirit of the source.)

            • pitu

              August 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm

              They ruined Narnia with those dumbed down films! And I am so nervous about Whr the wild things r and Alice *whine whine whine*.

              • Amrita

                August 5, 2009 at 2:27 pm

                Pitu – ooh phikar not if Narnia is your yardstick! Or, actually, I’m not too sure about WTWTA but Alice is being made by Tim Burton and it’s sure to be seriously trippy. Just look the pikchure – shikchure.

                FS – hahahah! How quickly the wind blows in these willows! This is a Wes Anderson movie and it’s old timey stop motion rather than CGI and I think it just might be awesome. Esp coz I’ve always thought Anderson’s grown characters are all just fucked up kids anyway. That part at the end when the little fox (Jason Schwartzman from the voice I think) says, “I can fit through that. You know why? … … … Coz I’m little.” CRACKS ME UP. I don’t know why. but its hilarious!
                Harvey is a play and so on and so forth, but its also this really amazing movie with Jimmy Stewart made in the 50s. You might have heard the character name “Elwood P. Dowd”? This is the movie. Here’s part 1. If you have the time then the whole thing deserves your hour and a half.

  8. DewdropDream

    August 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Welll… having watched Stardust and Bridge to Terabithia, I no longer always compare the movie to the book to judge how good it is. These two were pretty good movies in their own right, even if they were based on works of literary merit. Having said that, I am not always in favour of books being converted to movies.

    Arre lekin abhi there is The Time Traveler’s Wife coming na… tch!

    Fantastic Mr Fox looks to be good… will have to wait and watch.

  9. M

    August 4, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    LOL – ‘s true – and yes, so pointless….I walked plenty as a poor student with no other means of transport, but walking will always remain the means to an end to me – no romantic walks for me thanks!

    MiM – Chalet school – you can buy them from various booksellers in the UK. Check out for one – I completed my collection from them, and bought Bettany Press imprints of the most badly abridged versions (you know the Armada versions were hacked, don’t you?) – also from them. Or get on the Girlsown list – enough discussion and resources.


  10. Amrita

    August 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Memsaab – no but its a delicious thought! As it is she looks kinda dowdy in that on-set pic. But then its Helena Bonham Carter, so is that her in character or is that her in real life? Who knows?!

    Pitu – Mary Stewart rocks my world! And Thornyhold is one of my favorites! I should a Mary Stewart post.

    Blight-un – hike? HIKE? me? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!! *gasps for breath* AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! *wipes tear / goes to tell Amma about this funny thing “someone I know on the internet” said*

    MiM – you culdn’t do better than M below for info.

    Adithya – I’m a fan of conserving my energy! 😀

    Sachita – LOTR is a very strange fantasy novel to read. It’s not your modern fantasy at all because it was written by a professor of old english and it reflects that. my favorite hobby when the movies came out was to go to the big bookstore downtown and stand in sight of the line in front of the cashier’s, and watch all these people who’d seen the movies and now wanted to read the source material stand there and take a peek at the work – and watch their faces change. 😀 Coz the books are NOTHING like the movies. At all.

    3D – I havent read the book of Stardust but I’ve seen the movie and I havent seen the movie of the BTT but I’ve read the book, so I can’t comment, but yes, generally speaking there’s little you can do but hope the director / writer have a really strong vision of their own, whatever it is, because the mediums are way too different for them to be the exact same.

    M – I’d forgotten you were a fellow lover!

  11. Blight-un

    August 6, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    “*gasps for breath* … *wipes tear / goes to tell Amma about this funny thing “someone I know on the internet” said*” — Stop making it sound like I’m an effing pedo! 😀

    And about that hike, I say it as a somewhat seasoned silver tongue (you’ve surely read/watched Inkheart?), you’ll soon give up your “I won’t walk” ways and see for yourself how romantic a take-my-breath-away (literally, in your case!) saunter in the back roads can be. Tee hee!

    • Amrita

      August 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      Hee hee! My mother and I laughed heartily at the thought of my lazy ass making its way through the woods.

%d bloggers like this: