One of the worst things about having a body with limited mobility and energy reserves is how it restricts one’s capacity to be impulsive. It is not that I suddenly want to start climbing trees, or hanging upside-down off doors (my party-piece of old), but I have sorely missed being able to take off, on a whim, on foot. Before all this, I was quite a militant pedestrian, and this was particularly the case on my home turf (surely Edinburgh is one of the most pleasantly walkable of cities?). On a rare day off, I would think nothing of stravaiging across the city, spending a couple of hours in Morningside, having a cup of tea or a quick pint, and wandering back home, covering eight miles or more. This seems quite unimaginable now. Until today, in fact, my wandering has been limited to within a mile’s radius from my home and I still have to plan such excursions with tedious precision, taking into account the previous days’ activities and their likely impact on my energy levels. Stravaiging should be spontaneous, but so far I have found such spontaneity frustratingly impossible. For example, one sunny Saturday morning last September I got up and thought that I might just have a wee wander into Stockbridge. I set off valiantly and made it to Canonmills, before I began to feel woozy, sat down at a bus stop and had to call Tom to come and get me.

Well, this morning I finally made it into Stockbridge, walking about four miles there and back, alone, and under my own steam. This still required some planning – I took it easy yesterday, and left Bruce at home just in case I had to catch a cab – but, for the first time since the stroke, it felt like I was having a proper wander: purposeless, pleasurable, self-directed.

It was lovely just to potter about another neighbourhood, with its signs and chimneys, its regency stone and flaking paintwork.

to look in a few jolly shop windows . . .


(I am always intrigued by the items on display in this dusty ‘antiques’ shop on St Stephen’s Street – I don’t think I have ever seen it open – have you?)



. . . and enjoy some suggestions of better weather –

a lone hyacinth on the banks of the water of Leith . . .

. . . yellow pansies in a blue pot.

I posted a letter, I bought some bread at Herbies. I meandered back along the water.

At home, I ate the bread with a tasty bowl of soup made with the stock of last Sunday’s guinea fowl. I may also have eaten a large bar of chocolate covered marzipan. What luxury.

Here’s to more urban stravaiging.

88 thoughts on “stravaiging

  1. I actually stumbled across that shop in St Stephen Street when I was visiting Edinburgh a year or two ago. I have to say, it really was very bizarre! Lots of lovely beaded necklaces, although oddly enough, the woman in the shop kept pointing me in the direction of the cheaper ones! I did buy one in the end, quite happily. But the shop itself really was quite an experience! Sadly it wasn’t open last time I was in Ediburgh, but I’ll try again on my next visit.

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  2. Oh Kate, you just seem greatly in a wonderful place ! I have been remiss in commenting for several months now, for one, had a major blog url problem, but which I’ve fixed. I read your blog everytime there is a new post, and have followed your life for over a year now, with tears and smiles, and with great excitement each time a new design comes forth. I don’t expect you to remember me, but I am the one from the mtns in Napa CA, and hillwalker, knitter (just now designing some)… I hope you remember me. xJen

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  3. Welcome back to the world of the flâneur, well, flâneuse, that is… It’s one of the joys of life, and I’m so glad you had a great time.

    (I’ve always driven my friends mad with what one of them described as ‘Kate’s urban route marches’ but there’s not so much opportunity in a small Welsh village – different types of walks, though. Great to enjoy your walk, albeit vicariously!)

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  4. Oh, I would love to be wandering around Stockbridge! I so love it there…so many treasures to be found. Also love your Denby plate, takes me back to my childhood when my parents had the whole set…love it!

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  5. What a wonderful day you had, and simple pleasures, and delicious elegant tasty foods. Style and grace; and pictures of things from bygone era’s. Smiling yellow pansies; funny how you were drawn to those fish and shells. Luv the pics and story of your happy walking day.

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  6. This is a lovely post – many congratulations to you. I’ve seen that antiques shop open but only – typically – when I’ve not been able to stop and pop in. I think it’s among Edinburgh’s most curious shops! Also, those truckles are one of my absolutely favourite cheeses – you can visit the wee farm where they’re made on site (and watch it happening) and they have the MOST amazing wee cafe too – highly recommended should you visit Mull.

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  7. I have all strategies for dealing with fatigue, even learned some ways of ‘tricking’ it away. Some of that works some of the time, sometimes it doesn’t. But when fatigue hits like a body blow, I’ve learned to listen to my body shouting enough is enough; that it’s time to adjust and alter the horizon a little..

    That’s not necessarily for the worse. Every bench and wall I have to sit on along the way means meeting lots of interesting people I would have rushed past in my previous life. I don’t rockclimb anymore, but I do read and make art. One doctor I saw suggested that knitting is an aerobic activity not a sedentary one.. (I think she’s right!), so when I can’t knit, I crochet.. etc

    Yes, it’s frustrating but we all live with both the fabulous possibilities and potential within our own bodies and also all the limitations.

    Your Edinburgh photo essay is a delight. Well done on achieving the spontaneity and the 4 miles. ~Fiona

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  8. Sounds lovely. After my partner broke his back, he worked very hard at walking. He bought an antique walking stick that folded out into a chair. He memorized the location of all the benches, in case he needed to lie down.

    He still can’t take photographs with a single lens reflex camera because looking through the viewfinder throws off his balance too badly.

    I’m glad to see you pushing yourself like this.

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  9. As soon as I saw “Leith” I thought “The Leigh police dismisseth us.” I think I read that in Wodehouse as a sobriety check! I wish I could walk four miles.

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  10. Kate, I’ve only recently discovered you and your blog and love it. Its insightful, creative and beautifully written and illustrated. I’m hooked and feel part of your journey already. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. As odd as this sounds, I am now homesick! My husband & I were only able to spend a few days in Edinburgh – but we felt at home instantly. We’ve been talking about going back ever since we had to leave for the airport. I’m going to have to bring up the state of our vacation fund when hubby comes home….

    Thank goodness you were able to get out & enjoy the beauty that is your home today. And thank you for sharing! Well done. (p.s. I love that skirt!)

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  12. What a great word! And write-up!

    Also, it seems to me, in following your blog, that after a period of fatigue, you seem to pick up and go beyond the point you were earlier. Certainly this is a significant change, going those 4 miles or so.

    Keep it up!

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  13. How ever do you manage all the stairs in Edinburgh? I’ll be in the city with Anne (earlier reply to this post) and need to know a way from old town to new town without having to scale all those steps!
    LOVE your photos. Such a joy.

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  14. congratulations on your milestone; your celebratory sweet treat sounds wonderful.
    Probably just gave you that little sugar burst you needed.
    I have problems with stamina if I have nt walked even for a couple of weeks.
    Hope the spring and summer present the opportunities for many more rambles.

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  15. Hi Kate…. I have never commented before, but have been reading for a long time. This time, I just had to. Bravo! Must feel really great… So happy for you! I have been full of admiration for your determined mind set, hoping things would go back to normal for you — so glad another milestones has been reached!

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  16. That’s great Kate and must have been most satisfying! You’re right Edinburgh is such a wonderfully walkable city…..looking forward to exploring it’s streets again once we move back to Scotland (this summer)!

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  17. Totally taken with those Laurel and Hardy figurines but they’re a long way from Toronto. So is Spring, it’s raining on snow covered frozen ground and will be for the next day or two. Will have to wait till april to see those flowers appear. Happy to see your stamina is improving, keep it up it will happen.

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  18. You and blogger Lisa of Bloomsbury Life should have a proper wander someday soon. Lovely inspiring ladies that you both are finding goodness in spirit and soul.
    pve

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  19. I was pootering along the Water of Leith on Sunday from Murrayfield to Canonmills, and thought of you ( proper walking = Kate, in my head, even if you don’t feel you are doing as much as you would like). The leaf people are still there, although looking a bit battered. I love your beautiful photography of one of the most walkable cities, and yes, I have lived in Edinburgh for twenty years (!), and I don’t recall ever seeing that antique shop open.

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  20. So glad you were able to wander and walk!! It is a truly momentous event for you, and I can only imagine how wonderful it felt for you. I have always loved to wander without a fixed agenda. I can still remember a sunny afternoon when my son was a toddler that my husband took “duty” and I was able to walk and shop without a goal on one of my favorite streets in Richmond (Virginia, USA). It was a small thing at the time, but it truly nourished my soul. I hope you felt the same.

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  21. Congratulations to you and I wish you many, many more wonderful wanders and delightful days. Thanks for sharing.
    Best to you and yours!

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  22. So happy for you, Kate! And, because I will doubt I’ll ever journey outside the US thank you for giving me the chance to walk with you via your strava-logue.

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  23. Thanks for the trip and the amazing pics (colours, realistic). Did I see some fish in there? So great to see you out and about it warms my heart…and stravai….., you know. I will get on that. Great blog today!

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  24. HURRAYYYY!!!! -loud-clapping- Hurray for you! Another “milestone”.

    And thanks for taking us along for a few of the sights. What a lovely adventure!

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  25. Thanks for this post. I’d been taking my own stravaiging, and the pleasure I get from it, totally for granted. So much so I’d not even been aware of the correct term for a favourite pastime. Am off to try and throw this great word into conversation!

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  26. What wonderful photos of my old stomping grounds. So glad you were able to get there – a wander like this is good for the soul. That antiques shop: yes! I have seen it open and even been in! It used to be run by an old body who seemed personally attached to every item and was unwilling to sell anything at all. I’ll be sorry if places like that ever get pushed out of St.Stephen’s Street by yet more trendy boutiques.

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  27. It was so delightful to read your post. I am so happy for you. Hopefully, it won’t be long until you can enjoy your tea or your pint having walked to your favorite old haunts. Congratulations!

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  28. I’m happy to hear! And you really make me want to go to Edinburgh (it’s already high on my list of places I want to go :-) )
    And I too have learnt a new word today.

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  29. Never seen it open, either! I haven’t been down to Stockbridge in ages – you have whetted my appetite. So good to see you out and about, Kate.

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  30. Hooray for stravaiging! How great for you to be able to do it a little bit again. Onwards and upwards (and around and about) from here. And thanks for sharing those lovely pictures.

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  31. I’m happy for you and your Tantallon, it looks like you had a lovely day for this milestone meander – your pictures are lovely!
    Thank you for extending my vocabulary still further, I’ve been slipping dreich into conversation since your September post (such a descriptive word!). I think I’ll struggle a bit more with stravaig – although I (and my son) seem to stravaig rather a lot. I’m wondering if stravaiging conforms to Brownian motion?

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  32. I’ve been reading your blog for years but this posting prompted me to leave my first comment.

    As someone who loves a good wander, I am utterly delighted for and celebrating with you.

    Here’s a poem by Leonard Cohen that I love:

    The road is too long
    the sky is too vast
    the wandering heart
    is homeless at last

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  33. Sounds like a quietly magical time. I know what you mean about the loss of spontaneity as I have struggled with fatigue for a long time and get very sick of the need to plan around it! Sometimes I feel overwhelmingly old in having to do that- and I guess that is because, rightly or wrongly, I associate spontaneity with youth and it’s wonderful ignorance ; )

    It sounds like there will be more and more of those wanders- enjoy! xx

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  34. How wonderful and liberating. I sorely wish the highways around my home were safely walkable and there was somewhere interesting to walk to. Thank you for such a nice post.

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  35. Yup, understand that frustration well. What a pain it is to have to think about “can you make it there and back?”, and having to think about what happens if you can’t. So, good you had a decent wander, here’s to many more, and not too awful fatigue repercussions after. I’ve taken to wearing a pedometer to keep a check on how far I’m walking to ensure I don’t “overdo” it.

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  36. ‘Rumpus’, ‘malarkey’ and ‘palaver’ – words you taught me fifteen years ago. I can now add ‘stravaig’ to the list.
    Sending you many positive vibes!

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  37. MMMMmmmmmm…marzipan…

    It’s inspiring to hear that you are able to start doing some of those things you’ve been missing since your stroke. You and your recovery has been truly remarkable to learn about. Thank you for being so open and sharing!

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  38. Oh, these pictures have brought memories flooding back. I used to live about 5 minutes walk from St Stephen Street. There used to be a fantastic, and decidedly odd second shop in a basement in the little street that leads to the Stockbridge Marker arch.
    Glad you are getting out and about. Edinburgh is a fabulous city for walking about in – other than the hills!

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  39. I find you such an inspiration, I suffer from Atrial Fibrillation which for me is a permanent fixture. I used to cycle and walk miles and now I often feel too scared to walk to the post box in case I pass out.
    May you go from strength to strength with you health.
    I so enjoy your knitting – so talented.
    Erna.

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  40. You are inspiring me to move Scotland to the top of my “must visit” list! It is so exciting to hear about your accomplishments after the stroke. You are an amazing person. I’m so happy to be able to follow your adventures!

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  41. It makes me smile to read your words and look at the lovely photos you took. I am very happy to hear that you were able to go on this walk. What good news. Hoping that you will be able to do another one very soon.

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  42. A lovely day. So good of you to share it with us via your excellent pictures (La Gioconda, Laurel and Hardy and a spaceman – what a crew). I have yet to see Edinburgh for myself, but your pix are giving me a fine introduction.

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  43. Lovely pictures – just what I need for a cold, windy, and rainy day. Don’t you think that the more you wal, the more your energy level and strength will incirease? Take care.

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  44. I was not familiar with this word until this post, but I’m happy to have it, thanks! My current city, while lovable in many ways, is not particularly flaneur-friendly, and that is the main thing that causes me to daydream about moving elsewhere. I am unable to be much of a walker; therefore I do not feel like myself (who, then, shall we be, if and when we cannot walk as we once did?) There’s no good substitute for this kind of “purposeless, pleasureable, self-directed” movement through space; so glad for you that you were able to enjoy such a day! Lovely photos too.

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  45. I’m taking notes of great places to wander in Edinburgh – I’ll only be there for one day in September…..but I’m going to make the most of it!

    Congratulations on your accomplishment today!

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  46. When I first moved to New York City several decades ago, I was fairly broke. However, each week I would scrounge up enough cash to get two extra subway tokens and I would set off from my Queens apartment to explore a neighborhood. One token wold get me to a new place (usually in Manhattan), and one would get me home. Great fun on a budget! Thanks for bringing this back to mind…

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  47. What a delightful walk! Such sights and treasures on your way to behold! I particularly would love to visit the art store, myself. We are having more snow…it is nice to see the flowers. Thank you for sharing!

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  48. Just delurking to say how wonderful it is for all of us to see you gettig out and about as we know you used to. I’ve been reading for several years now, and you have always moved me with your honesty, and ability to see the beauty in so many things. It makes me look at everything in a new way when I see your photos.
    Edinburgh is a beautiful city – I visited my sister there at Uni. I haven’t been since unluckily for me.
    Hope your feet keep you wandering and that the fatigue stays away more and more

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  49. I want to go to Scotland! And if you can do those 4 miles, I can get to the gym with my crappy knee. You are a major inspiration. What a woman!

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