Take a hike
Our columnist is determined to share the pleasures of walking with her family. Sadly, they’re not quite as enthusiastic…
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,
“Walks are more enjoyable if they conclude with a) a retail opportunity or b) food”