Sunday, 30 March 2014

I would walk five-and-a-half hours. And they would walk five-and-a-half hours more.

To walk - verb: to place one foot in front of the other in a continuing sequence thereby re-enacting an ancient form of transport. Potentially hazardous if wearing ill-fitting boots. Requires a low level of fitness and an ability to read maps. (See also blisters and getting lost).

A walk - noun: an often pleasurable journey from one place to another undertaken on foot. Whether actually pleasurable or not depends on the weather and the terrain and the company. By convention "on foot" although singular and therefore suggestive of hopping, refers to two or more feet progressing forwards in a walking manner. If sped up, the walk would become a run. On feet.

Walking the dog - phrase: a duty required of man or woman to be undertaken on a daily basis for the entertainment of man or woman's best friend(s).

In a tale involving a significant birthday, tickets for Jeeves and Wooster at the Duke of York theatre, London (terrifically entertaining), long-legged-boy, babysitting and the need to provide transport from the railway station to home, it seemed a good idea to park a car at the station and to walk home - a distance of 9.7 miles by road, probably closer to 11 miles via footpaths. With Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins.

England was looking beautiful. The Scot in me wants to say that Scotland will always look better but I do recognise beauty when it demands to be seen and it was a stunning and English scene.

The footpaths were wide, easy to find and open

Snacks were good (chocolate and dog biscuits).
Lunch was better.

Caffeine boosted the map reading

As we progressed from field

to woodland

to ditch - "Come in, it's lovely!

On the way, we were slowed down by mud

and water

and fox poo

... then (thankfully) more water

We encountered strange blue barrel monsters that required much fierce and brave barking at

and relics of war that we didn't bark at

We brushed through crops (..swishy swashy - on our own private Bear Hunt)

scrambled over fallen trees

and took shadow selfies

We met three people and four dogs.

An hour from home, we strayed beyond the manicured paths of country estates and got lost. Where we needed to get to was visible on the horizon

but it was now a case of guess where the footpath might be and hope that if we walked to the corner of that field where the map suggested it should be, we wouldn't find our way blocked by a fence. Which it was, several times.

So we strayed.

And five hours became five-and-a-half-hours.

Walking gave Four-legged-friend back his bounce. 

It gave me blisters.

It was however a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. After the blisters have healed, I would walk five-and-a-half-hours more. It is the perfect guilt-free pastime for a procrastinator. It gives you time to think. To dream. To switch off from the noise of the world beyond.

Switching off is easier for dogs. When you have four legs and each paw proclaims that it has walked a thousand miles, falling down at the floor, next to the Aga, is a fitting switching-off reward.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Dribbling over a sports car

Scenarios in which an open top sports car is a good idea -

  1. it's not raining.
  2. the driver of the open top sports car is in possession of a mackintosh and sowester - in the event of 1. being incorrect - or is accompanied by a similarly clad passenger who is happy to hold a magic umbrella over their heads - magic because the erection of any umbrella currently in manufacture inside a moving roofless car will result in the prompt inversion of the umbrella, thus rendering it utterly useless. Except as an object of ridicule (see 4 below). Or the driver knows where the button is to reconstitute the car's roof, turning it into a claustrophobically small vehicle with all the visibility of a shoe box with an assortment of narrow windows cut out by a child wielding blunt scissors and as much knowledge of the highway code as he has for nuclear physics.
  3. the driver is deaf. Or likes music of considerable gusto and volume. He (because it is usually a he) will struggle to hear anything over the noise of plumped-up rubber on tarmac six inches below his ear.
  4. the driver has a thick skin and is proud of his car and of what it says about his style. And he is deaf anyway (see 3) so oblivious to the sneering references to 'small things' at traffic lights.
  5. the driver doesn't care about his hair (it will look a mess). Or hat (it will blow off). Or scarf (he will look ridiculous).
  6. the driver does not suffer from OCD and regards the accumulating pile of other people's rubbish, lobbed in a game of "see if we can chuck this into the sports car" and now littering his foot-well, as a form of modern art and representative of his full immersion into urban culture.
  7. the car is only driven on private roads in the open countryside. Or the driver is wearing an oxygen mask. Or has a severe head cold. Or suffers from anosmia. Or is fond of the smell of exhaust fumes from every other vehicle on the road. Or has brought about an engineering revolution where the exhaust pipes of all other vehicles are now required by law to be positioned above vehicle roof height thus removing them from standard sports car altitude.
  8. the driver is endowed with sufficient blubber to keep out the cold. Or it is sunny.

Bit of a rant after I borrowed the mid-life crisis and took it for a spin this afternoon? ... And coughed. And wheezed. And shivered. And was informed that I had "Mad hair!" ... Yes. Sorry.

Jealous ... ABSOLUTELY not.
REALLY, really not. 

In future, I opt for breathing clean air. And inverse snobbery in my cheap, lidded, run around on wheels. And a car that Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins can shed hair into and dribble over without inciting major warfare.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

If you go down to the woods today. Plus a short rant against "Finally!"

Half term passed, too long ago, in a sleepy, whispering sigh.

Half term for Littlest = shopping, treats, walks, curling up with a film, catching up with friends and family (you wait three years for an aunt to visit, then two turn up within four days of each other), singing-in-the-shower-because-I-can-and-no-one-is-telling-me-to-hurry-because-of-homework and if-I-look-busy-no-one-will-notice-that-I-haven't-done-my-music-practice*-and-no-I-don't-mind-putting-it-all-off-'til-Sunday (I can do it with the Maths prep that I've been keeping quiet about. On Sunday evening. Ten minutes after I should have gone to bed.)

Half term for Bertie Baggins and Four-legged-friend meant warm bottoms (long sleeps next to the Aga), walks, walks and more walks (way above their normal weekly average), visits from new friends, new smells, new excuses to interrupt conversations with wet nuzzling requests for a tummy rub, lots more crumbs dropped on the floor and fewer hours spent incarcerated in their outside run. Plus bones. Bones as distraction aka bribery when Littlest is wielding tools, trees are being felled and piles of branches are appearing all along the garden boundary. A boundary that is increasingly revealed as sadly lacking in the necessary tension to keep the fencing upright and with rotten fence post feet making it as effective as a canvas, beach wind-break in a gale.

Our path through the trees

Our wobbly fence

Physical exertion is one of the most effective treatments for tension (not the fencing type!) that I know. And I could have done with a quick laden-wheel-barrow-trundle up the garden when the tranquil bubble of my half term was popped briefly by a corrosive, mean, jabbing little word. Attempting to log on at work one morning, my card was not recognised (computers are clearly forgetful machines as the same one had recognised me the day before. Perhaps it was suffering from senile decay of its memory.) After many, many, many minutes tortured by Vivaldi stuttering badly in our ears, as first I and then the manager waited for telephone assistance, connection was re-established. Partially. It allowed me to perform some functions but not all - the equivalent perhaps of a vascular accident in the computer brain. Anyhow, the result of delayed recognition was a waiting room full of people whose appointments with me were now going to be (very) late. They had been informed that there was a problem several times and were quite possibly a trifle fed-up with my cheery face telling them "We'll get started as soon as possible." When it became possible, and I did start - still bouyed up by a British sense of coping in the face of an adversity that was not my fault - the first client stood up and announced to the waiting room "Finally!" Her rudeness flicked a switch inside my head from cheery determination to fury. I said nothing. I seethed. My normally chatty persona replaced by a perfunctory business-like emotionless extension of the defective computer. I only smiled again when I envisaged how it might have felt to slam the door behind her when she left. I didn't. But it brought my cheeriness back. I suspect she felt angry for the rest of her day - being angry increases your risk of heart attacks, apparently. Far better to let anger pass. Cheeriness it the best way ahead. Be generous and smile.

Thinking myself back to cheery requires picturing the things that make me smile -

Littlest's expostulations as she fights the undergrowth with a pair of loppers - part grunt, part song, part words that I didn't know she knew - would make (almost) anyone smile (unless, perhaps, they are of the disgruntled "Finally!" disposition)

* She did, in fact, do plenty of practice. In the end. And not all on Sunday night. The only competitive bones in her body are in her fingers - she has said that she wants to maintain her straight record of distinctions in music exams. Absolutely no pressure then ... and lots of sight reading practice this weekend!