Monday, 23 July 2012

The Walk

Today we went on a lovely walk for charity. It is in memory of the father of a very dear friend of ours and takes place every year. We haven't been able to go before but this year our friends had organised a crèche facility which meant that we could leave the children with a qualified nanny whilst we trekked across the South Downs of England with a group of adults. Fantastic! Nothing but adult conversation, great food and beautiful scenery all afternoon. Or that was the plan.

We bundled everyone into the car at around 11am on a beautiful sunny day with the aim of arriving at the designated picnic spot by 12.30, then heading of on the walk while the children were whisked away from an afternoon of fun and ice cream. But no... I decided to take the fastest route possible and jumped onto the motorway.... Two hours later we were still there, stuck in a traffic jam from hell. To be fair the kids were both really good and didn't fuss too much, so the only person getting stressed was me!

We arrived just as the walking party were leaving, I was a bit flustered, trying to pay the parking, take two children to the toilet, get the dog on a lead all the while being plied with delicious goats cheese tarts, sausages and cake. It only dawned on me that we didn't have a plate when I was offered salad nicoise to take on our journey.

Anyhow, by the time the formalities were done, the children were duly dispatched and we had sorted out our packed lunch, the rest of the party were already some way ahead of us. It was quite a big walking group and Papa and I knew that with enough oomph in our step we would definitely make up for lost time.

We crossed the road and entered onto the main pathway. Papa was hungry so we settled down for a lovely picnic and watched the world go by... It's amazing how peaceful everything suddenly seems when you don't have two little voices constantly asking you what, where, when, why and how does anything do anything....
We may have tarried a little longer than expected but we set off again in full vigour now nourished by our lunchtime repast. I suddenly received a phone call. It was okay they weren't returning the children already, no it was simply the head of the walking group telling us not to go to the beach but to follow the path up over the downs and to head towards Birley Gap. We dutifully did so.

Then we saw our group, not too far ahead but congregating at the top of a steep hill. We rushed off after them. Behind us was marching a very stern looking man and his two daughters. "right, " he said (he was very loud so I couldn't help overhearing) "if a couple have three daughters and each daughter has six children and they are all living off benefits then who is responsible for the grandchildren and how much will they cost the taxpayer?" This was obviously a maths problem for those in private school. I didn't know the answer but decided I probably didn't want to and hopefully his two remaining daughters would push him off the cliff anyway, probably to rapturous applause form all the other stunned walkers who had to endure his tripe.

Anyway, we caught up with our group. As I say, we had never been on this walk before and didn't question the fact that the group was now forming a large communal circle. "This is obviously part of the day" I said to Papa, "We must have reached a half way point and now we say a prayer or something." With this in mind we joined the circle, putting the dog between us, she was beginning to wheeze and sounded a touch asthmatic but we hoped no one would notice. The people started humming and a large white object was produced which was passed from one member of the group to the next and as they passed it they leaned towards their neighbour and said something that was obviously of great meaning to the next person. Now if you are typically British like me, then anything that involves having to tell a complete stranger anything slightly emotional always puts me in a state of pure terror. 'What if I say something inappropriate?' (I do that a lot) What if I laugh when I am supposed to cry or vice versa? What if...? Well there are too many what ifs but whichever 'what if' it is I usually do it.

It was whilst I was pondering this that I looked around the circle and realised that we didn't actually know anyone in it. Surely we should recognise at least one person? But no. As the white object got closer I realised we had entered into what appeared to be a Buddhist prayer group. The object got closer and I looked at Papa and mouthed "we need to go." he nodded. We both smiled and bowed quickly and left as fast as we could back up the hill dragging the wheezing dog behind us.

I'd like to say that that was the end of the matter but no sooner had we managed to get over the brow of the next hill when I managed to fall down a pot hole. A small pothole I grant you, but it could have really hurt. I needed to sit down but as soon as I sat I jumped back up again, I had sat on a particularly large thistle and was now musing both a sore ankle and a prickly bum.

We plodded on and a couple of hours later arrived at Birley Gap where there was a lovely cafe bar. We decide to rest and partake of the local cider, well the dog needed to rest in order to breathe again. There was still no sign of the others. I pulled out the itinerary from my backpack. There was another leg of the walk to do! We decided that we were now running extremely late and the best thing to do would be to wait where we were until somebody called and came to pick us up. After all, at some point someone would realise that we hadn't collected our children and they would definitely send out a search party before having those two in their house for a night.

The phone rang pretty shortly after that, we would be picked up! It was a miracle! And better still we would be taken to the final meeting spot.... A pub! There we could pick up our children... Well, there's always a downside...

We arrived at the pub and the children were there playing with a few others in the pub garden. "you made it!" came the cry... I felt like Scott of the Antarctic rather than a couple of (slightly) overweight gay dads and their asthmatic dog. The children came running up to us "Daddy, Papa, we were worried." so sweet. "And I need a wee" said TJ. Oh well back to normality.

I turned to thank the professional nanny for her amazing job. "No need to thank me," she said, "They were as good as gold." Really? Then I noticed that she was visibly shaking and she was on her second bottle of wine. It was as I noticed this that there came a cry from the other side of the garden. Our eldest child had just poured lemonade over another child's head whilst our youngest was jumping from table to table collapsing the sun umbrellas over unsuspecting customers.

We were just about to leave when I had chance to catch up with our very good friend whose father had inspired this yearly walk. She had been chatting with KC about the reasons behind the walk and how much her own father had meant to her and how much she missed him. He held her hand and simply said, "family is very important isn't it?"

That's what we are...'a very important family.'

1 comment:

  1. this would make a great tv show. i laughed and cried.