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About A Week: Walking And Thinking

Despite being interrupted by a flock of bumptious feathery blabberbeaks, Peter Hinchliffe manages to carry on thinking while he walks.

A loud insistent twittering interrupts my thoughts. Two hundred…maybe three hundred birds, all talking to one another at the same time.

Starlings. A flock of bumptious feathery blabberbeaks, in conclave in the field on my left, each one insisting on being heard.

It’s dusk. A cold February sun is fast disappearing. The birds, which have been feeding in the high fields during the daylight hours, are discussing whether the moment has arrived to head back down the valley to the town centre, there to find a regular warmer roosting place on the windows of office buildings and shops.

I find myself wondering which particular building is “home’’ for this rowdy battalion of birds. The grand Victorian Town Hall, in which concerts are given by some of Britain’s finest orchestras and choirs?

And if the birds do roost on the hospitable ledges and sloping roofs of the Town Hall, have they chosen that particular building because they enjoy classical music? Do they like to fall asleep to the strains of Mozart, Schubert and Handel which regularly emanate from the hall?

As I muse, the birds take wing. They funnel into a black cloud, whooshing 20 feet above my bare head, as though boasting of their aerial talents. They circle, gather, then head off into the darkening valley.

On I trudge, along this old green track. A track called Thurgory Lane. According to a friend of mine possessed of an abundance of local historical knowledge, a thurgory was a Viking burial ground.

Beside this track there’s a small copse of wind-bent trees, perhaps the place where Vikings were buried. Lots of hamlets and villages around here have Viking names: Gawthorpe, Thurstonland, Thurgoland…

I find myself wondering whether Eric Bloodaxe ever trod the path I am now treading.

And then - because the human mind is for ever giving a hop, skip and jump from one subject to another - I wonder what I will be eating for my evening meal, thirty minutes from now.

And then…another train of thought…I ponder the significance of the walking robots, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University in New York.

These robots realistically mimic the human gait, yet an ant could outthink them. All their “thinking’’ ability goes into their walking.

Many a year then before a metal man paces along Thurgory Lane, pondering the significance of the Viking invasion of northern Britain.

But what if robots ever do reach the stage of thinking like us, as well as copying our strides? Will they then be the rulers of the Earth? And if they are, what will become of us? Will they keep us on as pets?

I walk on, still ruminating. No robot me.

Then we’re home. Boots off.

And there’s a generous bowl of sausage stew for tea.

The perfect meal for a walking man on a cold February day. That’s what I think, anyway.


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