The Space Of Mountain Walking Thursday June 20, 2013

Get rained on she said, get wild, get warm, get blown away; be alive, get your personal space back and get out of London. You find these words at a YouTube video, encouraging Londoners to walk in the hills.

‘Get your personal space back’ is a simple but evocative formulation. It has physical connotations which are important for London, as the most crowded city of all where we are herded like cattle. This way, cattle, to work. This way, cattle, for groceries. This way, cattle, to go home for dinner. We know it’s late and you’re tired and you have to get up early again but you see, cattle, the transport delays aren’t my fault…

Britain is one of the most crowded countries on earth and I read the most crowded in Europe. I’m no longer sure of the precise statistics (as opposed to the principle which is correct) because I once received harassing Left Wing remarks as follows. Britain has always been culturally diverse, he said, and we’re not the most crowded. You may ask what bearing the concept of multiculturalism has on this topic. I did too. A cow is a cow, we are all cattle, and a field is crowded irrespective of where those cows come from. If a field is crowded it’s not a good idea to import any more. First you are physically crowded, then you are mentally crowded…

We are herded together on the London Underground with a consensual understanding. I am not provoking you sir, because my shoulder jostled yours. I know you are not flirting madam because you lurched into me, and in fact I find the thought revolting. We all know the rules…

Personal space is obvious and physical but has psychological and political connotations. A recent UK trend is the development of gated areas where wealthy people live in expensive houses behind a community wall. We’re all bankers, lawyers, and politicians together, and we won’t steal or mug each other on our personal street. We don’t need to because we steal from other people. At the other end of the scale you notice problematic areas are geographically cramped…

Public spaces are now contested spaces. City libraries for example are no longer genteel retreats where you read quietly and a librarian says ssssh! if you talk too loudly. A librarian is no longer a librarian. The job title is different, so is the role, so are the clientele, and they might tell a librarian to shut up not the reverse, for no logical reason but because of a sociological background. These are corrosive and obnoxious conditions. It’s the same in every shopping area, every street, every park, more or less. The civility and safety of such places depends on the extent to which they are controlled, relative to who frequents them…

Huge swathes of men were cut down and killed in the First World War, as part of a campaign where their death had strategic value. In the industrial corporate world this serves as a powerful metaphor. We are all cattle and some of us are killed, if not literally then psychologically…

Space is not only physical. We can be invaded, corrupted, compromised, assaulted, corralled, by relations, ideologies, and working practices. Or it happens more subtly, with the insidious influences of advertising and media. With less space we feel less free. We feel we must have the designer brand and barely notice where that impulse comes from and how vacuous and cattle-like it is…

Aldous Huxley envisaged an apocalyptic world where we are overtly controlled. George Orwell realised there’s a more powerful form of control which rests on the fact that we cannot see it and don’t know we are controlled. Our minds are invaded with double think, double speak, double standards, myths and lies, and we are conditioned into thinking Big Brother is good. One tradition goes back many hundreds of years and still exists thus: be nice or you will suffer when you die, believe and you will be saved, and you are always being watched. We are all cattle, 1984 is 2013.

As with the film Bladerunner, the Orwell dystopian city is characterised as a place devoid of nature where nothing grows. In The Matrix, the farming machine in which we live is disguised. That machine is the culmination of the exploitative Industrial Revolution where oppression is now invisible. There is however one section in 1984 where Winston Smith has a countryside dream. It is the one moment of colour in a prevailingly drab film. The grass is green, the trees are lovely, the skies are blue, he is free to walk.



Lake District





Peak District


Chorlton Meadows


  1. Marie · Jun 23, 11:33 am · §

  2. Richard · Jul 1, 11:14 am · §

  3. James Lomax · Jul 14, 10:20 pm · §