GET oot. That’s not me speaking. It’s doctors the length and breadth of the land. Fresh air is the new panacea. Though it’s as old as the hills, now they’re saying it’s better than pills.

I’ll swallow that. Being out in nature is seriously good for the soul. Other than walking, you don’t have to put anything into it. You don’t have to will it. Nature does all the work, washing over you, seeping into your bones, soothing you with its greenness. Imagine if nature were red, white and blue. I don’t think it would be quite the same. It would probably make you start shouting, like those oddballs opposing the independence march last week.

This week saw the revelation, so to say, that doctors were prescribing country walks to the chronically ill. In one remarkable tale, a lady with Parkinson’s Disease was able to throw away her sticks and walk her dog again. (As reported in last week's The Herald on Sunday).

However, while we were all enthused and amazed by this, a study showed that more than one-third of Britons believed there was no point in visiting the countryside because it was “boring”. Not only that but it lacked Wi-Fi and good restaurants.

Researchers for the Game Fair, an admittedly dubious “country pursuits” festival, found that one-quarter of 16 to 29-year-olds hadn’t been anywhere bosky in a year, with 14% saying they didn’t have “the right clothes or gear”, and 13% fearing that they’d get lost.

I can sympathise on both counts. Once, I got horribly lost on the Yorkshire Moors, having that horrible experience where you walk for an hour till you eventually come back to your starting point. It was blisteringly hot and my dry tongue dangled from my mooth as I chanted rhythmically with every step, “Lilt! Lilt!”. I don’t know why this was. I don’t like fizzy drinks and hadn’t had Lilt since I was young.

But it was the “totally Tropical taste” that gripped my dehydrated imagination as I staggered forth in growing despair. As it was, when at last I encountered a village pub, I made do with 23 pints of beer and a large Malibu.

I can also sympathise with worries about having the right clothes and gear. I’ve always been afraid of mountaineering because of the crampons, toggles and beards. But even less challenging coastal or country walks – horizontal mountaineering – feature repeated warnings by scowling authority figures that you should be properly clad, which we all know requires money.

In my late teens, when I’d hair down to my waist and was happy, I came downstairs at a Yorkshire (again) youth hostel to find a crowd cowed by a red-faced English army officer hollering that somebody had stolen one of his expensive socks. All eyes turned to me, But I explained that I did not purloin hosiery.

Gear, obviously, is a big part of cycling, conveyance of choice for the militant bourgeoisie. Regrettably, this delinquency also takes place outdoors, and it was reported this week that NHS patients in Wales are being prescribed free bike rentals to reduce the risk of heart disease.

As long as they don’t prescribe Lycra too. As spirited correspondence in The Daily Telegraph recently reminded us, it’s only in thuggish, buzz-cut Britain that cyclists go in for this garb. In cycle-centric Holland and Denmark, bicyclists tend to dress normally, while still admittedly causing danger to pedestrians and motorists alike.

Go oot, brothers and sisters, by all means. But use your feet, one after the other, forgetting Wi-Fi for the moment, but remembering to take some Lilt or Malibu, according to taste.

Knights of old

HERE’S a new one: “benevolent sexism”. It’s the new expression for “chivalry” and, in a surprise development, got the thumbs up from women, even ardent feminists, it says here.

The here-sayers are University of Kent researchers and, when they say chivalry, they’re referring to holding doors open, offering a coat in the cold, lifting heavy boxes and, er, giving help with a computer.

Must say I winced at that last one. Isn’t that “mansplaining”? But I’ll happily open a door or lift a heavy box and maybe even offer my coat (as long as the weather is clement).

According to the Kent boffins, chivalrous men are considered attractively warm-hearted. Nowadays, though, men shiver with fear on holding open a door for women. Most smile and seem fine with it. Some just breenge through. But, doubtless, a few dislike it. The thing is, I’d hold the door open for a bloke too, under the right circumstances.

Indeed, twice recently (well, in the last 10 years), women have held doors open for me. I was delighted each time.

It’s just being considerate, giving an opportunity for a wee smile. We don’t want to become like Scandinavians, never saying hello to anyone and grimly elbowing ahead in queues. We want to be “benevolently sexist”, like knights of old.


TALKING of politeness, the entire nation dislikes television and radio interviewers who keep interrupting their guests.

New analysis shows Emily Maitlis of Newsnight is the worst interrupter, butting in every 28 seconds, while Mishal Husain, a host of various BBC programmes, came second with a heckle every 46 seconds.

Fellow Today host John Humphrys, who has a bad reputation for this, lagged behind at 51 seconds, while Nick Robinson scored 65 and Evan Davis a whopping great 173. What is he doing? Sleeping?

I hope this research embarrasses the Misses Maitlis and Husain, but I doubt if it will. Sometimes, you can excuse it by considering that they might just be intensely interested in the subject but, often enough, it comes across that they’ve strong views on it and are indulging in “hacktivism”.

True, you have to stop folk droning on with vacuous party lines. And, on ill-advised broadcasting such as phone-ins, members of the public need interrupting from the start. In general, however, it’s the interviewee we want to hear, not the the interviewer. For the sake of politeness, the latter should shut up.