‘I forgot I could actually go for a walk without my mobile phone’

Luckily, common sense prevailed: I survived without it and relished nature’s magic

It is a sunny Sunday afternoon and I've just parked up at Westport Quay for my daily foray into fresh air. I call these constitutionals my "mental health walks", with any benefit to my aging body a bonus. On this particular occasion though there is an existential crisis even before I've exited my car.

“Goddammit,” I’m suddenly saying, as I rifle through my handbag. “I’ve forgotten my mobile phone.”

“I can’t go for my walk,” I utter to the distressed person in my vanity mirror.

“You could drive home and get it,” she says back, helpfully.


Since I live 8km away, I should immediately have been thinking of my carbon footprint, but all that was on my mind was my digital one.

“I can’t do it without Salacia,” I’m muttering to myself now. She is the woman who lives in my phone behind an app called Runkeeper.

With her mid-Atlantic accent it was a no-brainer that I christen her after a god of the sea and salt-water. I breathe in enough of it during my winter walks on the Co Mayo coastline.

Encouraging voice

My friend Salacia has kept me on track since the world suddenly stopped since in March 2020. She was the encouraging voice that egged me on every five minutes with a summary of my step count. She always ensured to ask me if I was sure I was finished when my finger teetered over the “I’m done” prompt when I invariably stopped halfway up “heart attack hill” on the grounds of Westport House.

We became friends way back at the beginning of the plague when I was so scared that my daily walk consisted of a repeated circumnavigation of my garden and driveway until I’d clocked up at least 5km. The map Salacia provided me with would look like a brain scan of Randle McMurphy’s after he was lobotomised in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

For about five months in 2020, I watched the seasons change in this tiny spot on our planet until the daily rate of numbers began to drop and I gathered enough courage to crank up my car again.

Being of a certain age, I was a latecomer to the world of apps but after I learned that some of them actually talk to you, I was hooked. A sucker for the tactility with the outside world they offer.

It was after the princesses set up a family group in which we shared our daily exercise regime. It kept us all on track, as it were, during the chasmic changes we were forced to make to our lives. Nothing was ever said about the fact that it was a way of keeping an eye on me not lapsing into a state of lethargy, due to the enforced solitariness of my life.


Understandably, as the world gradually reopened over this summer, one by one, the princesses departed the WhatsApp group. The daily reports of 10km runs up the side of a Kerry mountain or buggy walks with grand-daughters Ada and Ellen around the lough in Cork city gradually disappeared.

Individually, of course, they all continued their digital tracking of their daily exercise regime, as did I. After all, apps appear to mediate most aspects of our lives these days.

It got me thinking, though. Should every move we make – literally – have to be ping-ponged off satellite dishes sitting out there in the cosmos like armies of Big Brothers? What does it say about our development as a species? Are we afraid to give ourselves the headspace to simply go for a leisurely walk without the appendage and intrusion of a device?

I clearly wasn't on that sunny Sunday morning when I genuinely considered returning home for my mobile phone because I had managed to forget I could actually go for a walk without it. Ultimately, common sense prevailed and I am happy to report that I survived without Salacia. Indeed, the absence of her five-minute interjections left me free for the magic of those moments when, in the words of Emily Bronte: "Every leaf speaks bliss to me/

Fluttering from the autumn tree.”