The Art & Science of Strollocking
‘Strollocking’: My own definition: the mysterious experience of walking and talking with companions whereby the conversation organically and comfortably tends from the everyday and ordinary into unexpected, enjoyable depths.
Origins: A portmanteau word combing ‘stroll’ from the dialectal German strollen, “to stroll about, loaf,” and bollocks from Old English bealllucas (testicles) – used as an exclamation to indicate nonsense.
Don’t for heaven’s sake be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.
I first encountered this useful word in March 2021 on Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’. Coined by writer Rhidian Brook, and an unnamed walking companion, strollocking could be happily inducted into a Walking Words ‘Hall of Fame’.
The delicacies of the slot didn’t permit Rhidian to clarify that strollocking is ‘talking bollocks while walking’ but it didn’t matter. We’ve all done it; strollocking existed in our experience before it existed on the page.
Anyone who has walked with others for any length of time knows the potential – not always realised – for the gentle meandering of conversation from catch up chat to general news, views and observations, to drift further on and deeper into some unexpected, half noticed corner of thought or feeling. Here speculation, revelation or sheer lunacy might surreptitiously take shape in the shared moment – sometimes all in the same sentence.
As Rhidian made clear, strollocking can include profundities and truths as well as the speculative, half-finished rickety structures of ‘ideas in the making’ that make up casual walking talk.
The implied permission to strollock is vital. It is quietly understood when the speaker is in full strollock that judgement and contradiction are being withheld by the listener to allow whatever is unfolding to fully manifest. Interruptions are only rarely permitted for emergency nature spotting – in which case the ‘spot’ needs to be of great interest – or for quips of the utmost brilliance.
A word about timing. The ‘talk within a walk’ seems to have a definite rhythm; with its own hidden laws, strollocking cannot be timetabled. It’s impossible to strollock within the first mile or two. Some topographical and conversational distance must be covered if there is to come the unbidden moment where the strollocking moment might arise. Unless those involved are very close friends, profound strollocking close to, or at, the destination is in poor taste, creating discomfort and much embarrassed boot staring among the listeners. However, the brisk re-energising lunch stop, with perhaps a pub diminishing in the rear view, seems to provide favourable strollocking moments – it is always a delicate thing and cannot be forced.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that the Germanic original strollen has an old Italian equivalent meaning vagabond or fortune teller. Or it really is coincidence and I am strollocking even as a I type.
It has yet to be decided whether strollocking can be a solo pursuit; having reflected upon many miles of my own solo thoughts, I contend that it can. Some of my favourite ideas have come to me while strollocking solo.
This website being one.