These old boots are made for walking…and other fables

Richard Lutz assiduously reports on his past seven days.


First, let’s kick off with important walking news.

I have banished my fancy schmancy new hiking boots to the back of the closet as I approach a week’s walk across the top part of England. Oh, they had all the latest techy things to make you like your hike…high tech this, high tech that. Rear view mirror, satnav, digital laces, all the doodads.

But I clamped on the old forgotten ones, with the ripped fabric and ground down soles and the look of So Last Year (if not So Last Decade) and found they fit my feet like a glove – if you get my meaning. Lord knows how many plodding miles (or even kilometres) I’ve pounded out in them. But ya gotta go with whatcha got. Boots can make or kill a long walk. All else is frippery. So, it’s off with the new. On with the old.

To help things out a bit, I entered into the dubious world of gym rats to get in shape. My gym is populated by an odd and dedicated assortment of sweating participants. There’s the muscleheads who seem to live there and sleep under the dumbbells at night; the rugby team that just do one single rep about 5,000 times before collapsing; a team of ladies training very hard for a marathon who have taken a long term lease on the treadmills – and me.

I’m usually in first in the morning. And that means I get to have my own music off my phone linked into the mega sound system. It’s an anarchic mix of bad music, antique music and more bad music. So I’m just waiting, or dreading, the moment when they clock it is my garbage they are enduring before the muscleheads tie me into a ball and stuff me somewhere between the suicidal Dual Adjustable Pulleys and the killer Leg Press machine.

Portrait by Rachel Maclean

To escape the perceived threat, I head for the safety of Glasgow. There, artists have used the sides of neglected buildings to paint the brickwork with monumental portraits of local hero Billy Connolly (see above). The actor/singer/comedian is the patron saint of this tough old town and the pictures of the boy, now in his seventies, are dotted around the Exteme Urban Landscape of the city’s east end.

My favourite is the Digi-print (above) by city artist Rachel Maclean which shows him resembling some kind of Polynesian chieftain – or at least I think it does. It graces the gable of a building in the market area of the Scottish city. Across his chest is a sash resplendent with his nickname: The Big Yin. Ten points for those not from Scotland who know what the name actually means.

We take the gargantuan portraits in like medieval pilgrims searching out relics of the cross. This being a town with a big Catholic population, it somehow is fitting to create a semi-religious journey out of the expedition. The Big Yin would be proud.

The search all ends, fittingly, in a boozer slapped onto the side of a church. There is a wedding underway and the guests are piling in and out of the attached pub in their glad rags and their dress kilts. One guy has a nifty pair of tartan shoes. And we know St Billy would approve. After all, he did a whole comedy tour years ago wearing moccasins in the shape of giant bananas. It puts me right into the mood for slapping on my old boots….perfect gear except for the lack of tartania that the wedding guest so proudly displayed under the gaze of a giant painted Billy Connolly surveying all around him on a rainy Glasgow afternoon.