Sunday, 14 August 2011

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds

As my wife tells me, I am a grumpy old man, not fit for polite company. Good, because I don't much care for company.

I adore hill walking, particularly in very high places with very few other people. I love the solitude and the contemplative nature of walking in wilderness. Yet it is truly hard to find real solitude, no matter how high you go, how much it hurts to get up there or how early you get up on a morning. There is generally some other hardy soul up there, trying just as hard to get away from you as you are from them.

I'm not totally inured to the pleasure of walking in company – it's great to be able to turn to someone and share the delight in a breathtaking view or a joke to lighten a painful ascent. But for the most part I'm very choosy who I walk with. I love walking with my son Connor – he brings a different dimension to my walking. For him it's all about harder, faster, better – he likes to know how fast he's walking, how many miles we've covered and how much faster we did it compared to last time. He's a good foil to me; I like to walk at a pretty quick pace, but it's not all about speed; much more it's about taking in the beauty of our world and finding space to hear your inner voice. I hope that I slow Connor down just long enough for him to see the splendour of the landscape and I hope he goads me into pushing myself harder than I would naturally. A good compromise on both sides. I hope he'll continue to walk with me for a long time.

It's hard to find a walking partner. Silence is just as important as conversation......

All of which means I don't go on many family walks. Until recently the kids were too young to take up really high and Anita doesn't see the attraction. All the more surprising then, when she suggested a "proper" family walk this weekend. Family walking for us normally consists of somewhere flat, usually near a river, with frequent stops for food. All of which is very nice, but it's not walking – it's a picnic. I normally get grumpy because I've been promised walking and have to settle for a stroll in the valley, next to a river I can't afford to fish, when all I really want to do is get up high.

Today however was different; proper walking was on the cards. And indeed it was; whilst it wasn't the highest or hardest walk in the world, it was a proper family walk on Mam Tor in Derbyshire. Good start, let's have some more!

I may even learn how to behave in polite company if this carries on!

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