Take a hike

Our colum­nist is de­ter­mined to share the plea­sures of walk­ing with her fam­ily. Sadly, they’re not quite as en­thu­si­as­tic…

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For our colum­nist, the call of the wild is fall­ing on deaf ears

LIKE VIEWS, NUTS IN SAL­ADS, AND TENNIS PLAY­ERS’ TORSOS*,

walks are some­thing I’ve come to ap­pre­ci­ate only later in life.

Sadly my im­me­di­ate fam­ily would all rather lie hor­i­zon­tal on the sofa main­lin­ing data and Jam­mie Dodgers. In the gym Al­pha Male is all ‘go hard or go home’, but when it comes to the sug­ges­tion of a gen­tle stroll he prac­ti­cally su­per­glues him­self to the soft fur­nish­ings and feigns tired­ness. Once I have put over a per­sua­sive ar­gu­ment (threat­ened to with­draw sex­ual ac­tiv­ity), he ac­qui­esces. Un­for­tu­nately the chil­dren are not such an easy win. They gen­er­ally stage a sit-in, re­quir­ing AM and me to cart them out­side, hold­ing an arm and a leg each. This some­what mars the en­joy­ment.

Re­fus­ing to be cowed, I en­lighten/lec­ture them on the ben­e­fits: phys­i­cal fit­ness, men­tal health, and the be­ing at one with na­ture thing. They’re like… “what­ever”.

Of course, when I was a teenager and my own fam­ily would drag me on walks, I would slope around, fu­ri­ous to be miss­ing the Hol­lyoaks om­nibus and lis­ten­ing to Ev­ery­day Is Like Sun­day on my Walk­man with­out a f*** to give about a robin or a cowslip.

Then, at some stage in the last 10 years, I turned into my mother and now en­joy point­ing out, say, a beau­ti­ful or­ange flower (which on closer in­spec­tion is of­ten a Wot­sits packet) and shout­ing loud “dog poo” warn­ings. On coun­try lanes I also like to yell “car com­ing” when it is ob­vi­ous to ev­ery­one that there is in­deed a car com­ing.

Some­times I in­sist we drive to some­where to walk (AM ques­tions this logic). Once I dragged ev­ery­one to Blen­heim Palace to stroll around the gar­dens. The fam­ily ticket was £41 and we only man­aged about 16 min­utes be­cause a) AM got h-an­gry, b) my son got a de­bil­i­tat­ing blis­ter and c) it shut.

So I will con­cede walk­ing throws up some is­sues…

1) In­ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing. Sar­to­ri­ally

I can’t bring my­self to go the full boots, cagoule and trousers that zip off into shorts. Which in­evitably means blis­ters, damp­ness and chaf­ing. My friends once went for a ram­ble in the Peak Dis­trict woe­fully un­der­pre­pared. The weather started clos­ing in and, with only a light from their iphone, they re­alised they were de­scend­ing a near-sheer rock face in Hava­ianas (with only a faux Elizabeth Shaw mint in M’s cross-body bag, left over from last night’s curry, for sus­te­nance). 2) Cows. Scary. Go into a field with 20-plus beasts, each weigh­ing a tonne, all of which are giv­ing you the side eye? No thanks. And why do they al­ways stand by the gates, thus mak­ing you climb through sting­ing net­tles and barbed wire to avoid them? Coun­try types al­ways say don’t show fear and walk di­rectly to­wards them (which is like ask­ing a bat to go to Ozzy Os­bourne’s dress­ing room for a get-to-know-you chat).

3) Map read­ing. In­flam­ma­tory. Al­ways. Mag­netic north? Grid ref­er­ences? Sorry, I was too busy drink­ing snakebite and black to get any Dofe hard­wear. AM has his ori­en­teer­ing Scout badge so when I force him on a ro­man­tic stroll he takes charge of the map. At a posh coun­try-house ho­tel we once went so badly wrong we walked through a golf course and found our­selves in a clay-pi­geon-shoot­ing zone. We ended up, clothes ripped, nerves shat­tered, skulk­ing into the ho­tel look­ing like ex­tras from Thriller.

I have learnt some lessons though. Walks are more en­joy­able for all if they con­clude with a) a re­tail op­por­tu­nity or b) food. As for the cloth­ing? Well, I’ve made some sar­to­rial con­ces­sions in the in­ter­ests of prac­ti­cal­ity, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of some wa­ter­proof items to my wardrobe. Wor­ry­ing. But not as wor­ry­ing as AM say­ing, “I quite fancy you in that cagoule,

Green.” Gulp.

“Walks are more en­joy­able if they con­clude with a) a re­tail op­por­tu­nity or b) food”

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