I’ve always liked the idea of living in a house with stairs. Not houses which require stairs to get into them – I’ve lived in plenty of those – but houses with more than one storey.
Wooden stairs are ideal – none of those disturbing steel-and-glass things that show you the yawning gulf beneath your feet (and presumably allow anyone beneath to look up your skirt).
So I was delighted when we managed to buy Narrowhaven, a house which is equipped with a proper indoor stair. The stairs are of an aesthetically pleasing shiny dark wood, and are a very important part of the function of the building. Which is to say, half of the house’s six rooms are at the bottom, and half at the top, and there’s nine feet to climb between them.
Of course, nine feet is not excessive. Particularly not when you consider the staircase that goes up the side of Mt Niesen in Switzerland, which measures one and two thirds kilometres just in the verticals. Admittedly, it’s an outdoor stair, but still, 11,674 steps is a lot. I should be thankful that I have only fifteen.
Especially considering that said fifteen steps lie between the kitchen (i.e. the Source of All Tea) and the bathroom (I trust I do not need to draw you a picture).
The call of nature draws you up, and the call of a cuppa, or your book, or pottering out to the letterbox for some fresh air calls you down again.
But I am thankful for my fifteen steps, because they are one of the chief sources of exercise in my life. It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like, or how energetic I’m feeling, up and down those stairs I must go.
I took a survey across three recent days (including one when I was out for the evening) and found that on average, I go up and down the stairs ten times a day. Or rather, down and then up, considering that I start my day in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
But how often do we even consider the sterling contribution of the humble staircase? “What is a staircase, but a corridor improved by elevation?” as Catherine Gilbert Murdock wrote in Princess Ben (very readable book that, by the way).
How many other parts of your house silently and without the slightest charge provide you exercise without you even needing to think about it? No sooner had I written this than I popped upstairs again and was on the third-to-last stair down before I’d even noticed what I was doing.
While there are doubtless those for whom stairs are Not What The Doctor Ordered (e.g. those with joint problems or chronic giddiness), they should have our sympathy, and all the more so if they have stairs anyway. For when you’re just an ordinary homebody like myself, there’s nothing like a flight of stairs to keep you moving.
Note: whoever named a case of stairs a “flight” should be sat down and given a talking-to. If there is one thing you should not attempt to do when taking the stairs, it is taking flight. Happily, our stairs come with walls both sides and a handrail, so flight options are limited.
It’s not just the practicality, either, it’s the aesthetics. A sweep of well-swept richly glowing wooden stairs is a much more pleasant thing to look upon than An Exercise Thing for Stepping – wouldn’t you agree? And unlike the Exercise Thing, it slides all that exercise almost unnoticeably into your day.
So here’s to the stairs, the humbly serving unappreciated stairs. Give them a sweep or a vacuum and show your stairs a bit of love today.