The crowd of men stormed past the bar. Was it a mob? It looked like a mob? There were police men following them. It must be a mob?
It all happened so quickly. One minute we were eating lunch at The Sugarloaf Pub, the next we were shielding our little one as men ran frantically into and out of the establishment. What was all this chaos about? But just before I constructed a barrier of wooden tables and chairs the storm of men subsided and calm restored itself to the small English street.
“What was all that about?!?” I asked the barman.
“Footballers against extremism march”, he replied.
A march?! How exciting!
It started to click.
I looked back into my memories of the last few chaotic moments and things started to clarify. The men were walking with excitement yes, but not of an ill sort. And the policemen were gentle escorts, walking calmly at the back of the group, ensuring safe passage. As for the men running frantically into and out of the bar?
They were running to the bathroom. Marching gets certain things moving.
I hadn’t seen a march in well over four years, not since I moved to the UAE. Marches were unheard of there.
Part of it was that most people were content. They had jobs and purpose and provisions. Another part was that the leaders of the UAE made wise choices. But mostly, Abu Dhabi’s streets just weren’t that walkable.
Yes, you could walk in Abu Dhabi, but it wasn’t easy. Large highways and eight lane city roads made biking or walking anywhere a challenge. The streets were large, not intimate, and they were also major thoroughfares. If you closed one road down you would have to go miles around to get where you needed to go.
It’s one of those intangibles. Something that draws you into a place. A city where you can walk everywhere invites exploration. London invites an adventurers mind. They even advertise many walking tours. The Charles Dickens walking tour. Jack the Ripper walking tour. Southwark walking tour. The Michael Jackson Moon-walking tour. Ok the last one I made up. But nonetheless, London is a walkable city.
That’s why it shouldn’t be strange to see a group of men gather together to walk from one end of London to the other in support of a cause they believe. When you care about something, you want to take to the streets, and London makes it easy to take to its streets, whatever the “why” for walking.