Zig-Zag

by Lilian Cooper


Maybe we'll evolve to walk in single file. 


If we do, it may not be bad a thing.


We might assimilate the following as our preferred way of doing things. Although I don't imagine this suggested order would amount to any significant development in the complex process of natural selection, hopefully we'd come out a little safer on our journey to and from the shops.


We'd probably feel better organised, albeit more regimented. But I don't consider we'd sense being controlled. It would be more of a voluntary thing, invoked only when we had a choice but tending over time to tip the odds. After all, we are already well-known to be a nation of queuers, so the idea of getting into an orderly line is not all that alien to us.


Advantages. Well, no longer would there be any need for us to negotiate an abrupt switch in direction — suddenly to change from walking uninterrupted ahead into making a sudden zig-zag pattern, to avoid crashing into the shopping bags held by fellow pedestrians heading straight toward us face to face.


Instead, we'd travel up to our destination on the near-side of the pavement in parallel with the flow of cars. Then, returning, we'd walk back on its left side too following the same rule of the road as for motor vehicles: a practice developed in the interest of safety on the open highway. This decade has already shocked us by its own unexpected turn, but we might go back in better shape.


And this same orderly method would also serve to eliminate those highly exaggerated passing strategies embraced by some.


Under this new linear regime, it would not be required for sophisticated walkers to affect any unnecessarily return to centre following their extravagant description of a full figure of eight, no matter how gracefully executed.


These most accomplished of advanced walkers need not simulate a classical 'glissade' — a familiar term from my ballet days: the word derives from the french verb 'glisser' which means 'to glide'. Glissade, I recollect, is intended to be a transitory step, invoked generally preceding a petite or grande jump. The professionally trained dancer will start from a demi-plié in the fifth position and glide the working foot until the leg is completely extended, with pointed toes raising a few inches from the ground. Before descending, the legs must create an 'A' shape in the air. The first foot that left the ground will come back down into a fondu, and the second leg will descend alongside it until closing back once more into fifth. Glissades may be executed: devant, derrière, dessous, dessus, en avant, or en arrière.


And so, we shall be twice blessed, because all glissades will no longer need to start and finish in a demi-plié. The art of walking to the shops and back again will be much more of a straightforward accomplishment for everyone.


Let's go on a pretend expedition.


We can try this out. We'll go towards the High Street shops.


For fun, why don't we start from outside the nearby Church where James ended his respite exercise walking in the fields he described here.


We'll start with our back to the large wooden doors which make the main entrance to St. Mary's Church. The spire behind us. We'll set off up Church Street heading in the direction of Tesco. Not long beyond our first steps taken out of the churchyard, we pass directly underneath the large mushroom tree. We have elected to travel on the left but it is not compulsory to do so. We continue to the crossroads where we stand, Mill Street to our left, The Moors to our right. We cross the road onto the High Street, still keeping to its pavement on our left.


As we walk up the hill, a cyclist peddles past us on the road at a pace not much faster than we are walking; I imagine the cyclist is also making their way to Tesco or perhaps the Co-op. All other shops in this direction remain closed today.


We halt outside O'Gormans next to the red pillar box, carefully we cross the road to arrive at our terminus, the supermarket. We place a cheese and tomato sandwich in our basket. We pick up a small uncut farmhouse loaf from the bakery aisle — planning a slice of toast at home in the morning. We queue up to pay, then leave and turn back onto the High Street where we walk its length again, but, this time, the Baptist Church is on the same side of the road as ourselves as we pass it on the left. We cross back into Church Street, keeping to our chosen side of the road as best we can the whole way down. We unwrap and eat our sandwich on the bench outside the Church and pray that it's okay to do so.


On our imagined walk just now we saw many backs of heads and heels.


But we remained perfectly able to recognise the familiar faces of fellow shoppers on the other side of the road. We saw them coming. And we were able to wave to them and mime our hellos from far more than the safe separation prescribed for our social distancing.


Our incrementally changed behaviour might take hold. Over time.


Do you see where I'm coming from?




Lilian Cooper is a resident of Kidlington Village, Oxfordshire.