Just Going For A Walk

I had been planning to blog about our earliest form of transport for a while, then walking took on yet another aspect last week with the royal funeral, the various processions leading up to it and of course The Queue. But first back to basics.

Have you heard people comment, or perhaps you have said it yourself…

I don’t do hills. I don’t do walking. I don’t like walking.

I was once watching a comedy in which the teenager daughter greets her mother’s return home. ‘I didn’t know where you were, I thought you’d gone for a walk.‘ Mother replies ‘Walk! I’ve never been for a walk in my life.’

Someone describing how the heat was not a problem in Singapore with the air conditioned malls… I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He replied looking puzzled ‘Why would you want to go for a walk?’

Why would you not want to walk, the most natural activity for humans, exercise that costs nothing and a handy way to get where you want to go. During Covid lockdown it was one of the few activities allowed and non dog owners discovered new delights. I love walking, but I have no desire to trek to either pole or up to Everest base camp; solo or with companions, who I would be intensely irritated with by the third day… But ordinary walking, enjoying the fresh air, scenery, perhaps photography and probably ending up at a nice cafe or pub is fun for everyone… What do non walkers do when they go for a day out or on holiday? You may think National Trust Houses have large grounds because the original owners owned all the local land; no, it’s so we can have a nice walk before having lunch in the restaurant and looking round the house. No holiday is complete without a walk along a cliff path or a steep ascent up a hill to enjoy the view.

Modern technology, from super electronic wheelchairs to state of the art artificial limbs allow many who are disabled to get out and about with their friends and family who are fit and able to walk. Walking is freedom and not to be taken for granted; those under repressive regimes or living in dangerous areas cannot just go out for a walk. If you are used to walking everywhere it’s a reminder of the privilege when you ‘do something’ to your back or knee and suddenly can’t walk. The leaflets we were given when having chemotherapy suggest that ‘going for a short walk will help combat fatigue’ – this turned out to be a joke as most of each three week cycle it was a struggle to get to the front gate or up the stairs. It was an insight into the chronic fatigue that people with Long Covid and other debilitating medical conditions have to cope with.

So back to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth 11. Whatever your views on royalty or television ( blanket ) coverage of the events, there was a fascination with both the formal traditions and the spontaneous acts of those who came to queue to watch a procession or for The Queen’s lying in. There is something dignified and humbling about the men of the family and others close to the royals walking slowly behind the coffin. Princess Anne joined them, as she did for her father’s funeral, a token man for the day? Presumably it is tradition that only the men walk. If any of the chaps didn’t like walking they were in for a tiring time. I like a brisk walk, walking slowly at a measured pace is much harder, I have tried it round the house. Nor did I go up to London to join The Queue, almost a pilgrimage. They had a long distance to cover at a very slow pace, I wondered if there were escape points for those who changed their minds and just wanted to go home.

There are environmental benefits if everyone walked on short journeys and for writers it is one of the best ways to see real life, but those are topics for another blog.

Are you a walker or non walker? If you enjoy walking what is your favourite sort of walk?

Tuesday Tale – A Stranger in 2022

When I finally woke from my three year coma everyone said I hadn’t missed much and proceeded to gabble on about Covid and lockdowns. i had no idea what they were talking about.

It seems they had been talking to me a lot ’once restrictions were lifted’, another mystery. I do not remember a single word they said, so that was a waste of their time. Only my dearly beloved had the sense to give up early on, no great loss, though apparently ironic as the accident was his fault.

They insisted on showing me The Facebook Page. How embarrassing, I didn’t know I had so many friends, or maybe everyone feared not being seen as caring. Celebrities, what was that all about? Why on earth would I want some gloating multi millionaire author pleading with me to get better and finish my novel? From what I recall it was a load of rubbish. As for the music, who on earth thought I loved Andre Rieu and Andrea Bocelli?


Anyway, all I wanted to do was get out of that hospital and explore 2022 on my own, the lot of them could go and get…. can’t even remember any swear words. What was I saying, oh yes, I had interviews with rehab people and got myself free three months, or was it three free months at Mellowmead sports centre. But it turns out ‘everything’s changed since Covid’. You can’t just walk in and ask for an adult swim and head off to the changing room. You have to go through the Portal, get the Ap, book on line. The Mellowmead Active website was a nightmare. ‘Just look for Mind and Body Studio and search wellness pilates and moving forward easy circuits’ said my physio.
At last I arrived with my new bright orange plastic Mellowmead Active membership card. ’I think I am booked in for 2.30 wellness pilates, where do I go?’
‘Just touch your card at the barrier, if it opens you are booked in’ she said, without looking up from her computer screen.

Silly Saturday – Covid Community Caring Characters – Interview no. 3

Yes I’m proud to be serving my country, proud of the uniform I wear; keeping everyone safe.

Last week, but already it feels like this is what I was destined to do.

No, we always work in pairs for safety, it can be tough out there and I know I can trust Nat with my life. We also need to show our presence.

The most important aspect of our work is to gather intelligence; does something look not quite right? Is that person a local? What is that chap carrying? Why does that woman keep glancing around nervously.

No I don’t think we’re turning into a police state, most people know why we are doing this.

What do we actually do? Every hour, every day is different, we never know what we’re going to face. But that doesn’t stop us taking risks, talking to strangers…

You have yesterday’s recording from my headcam? No, that’s not allowed. Oh, it’s already gone out on the lunchtime news… No, I have nothing to hide, it will be good for the public to see what we face.

Are you out for exercise… and you ran all that way… well there isn’t going to be an Olympics so you don’t need to run twenty six miles every day.

Is this your car Madame, how far have you driven? Yes we do know where you live – ANPR. Did you drive down the spur road? So your details are already on the PNC. I am using plain language – Automatic Number Plate Recognition, Police National Computer. Well we would all like a walk by the sea, but it’s hardly local. Yes it is actually against the law to go to the seaside.

Is this outing for the purpose of essential shopping. No I don’t think you are carrying four heavy bags just for fun. May I look inside the bags. No you don’t know your rights and you’re wrong. Do you consider chocolate and three bottles of wine to be essential? Home schooling does not make them essential.

I would believe you were out for daily exercise if you were walking a little faster. If you have knee trouble why don’t you stay home?

Sitting on a bench does not constitute exercise Sir. CPD? Why does being obsessive mean you have to sit down? Ah, yes of course that’s OCD, so what made up condition is CPD? We didn’t do that on our one day first aid course. Oh, my colleague here says yes we did, but I was asleep. Anyway, please don’t drop dead on my watch ha ha, we’re not allowed to administer mouth to mouth resuscitation because of Covid.

Isn’t it time for our lunch break Nat, let’s just clobber one more.  Good morning Madame, is this your vehicle. Yes I can see you have a disabled badge, but you don’t look very disabled… so is that your ninety nine year old mother in the passenger seat? Shouldn’t she be at home? A last look at the sea before she dies, we’ve heard that excuse before….

What do I love about my job? Working with people, I’m good with people and I love being a Covid Warden.

Silly Saturday – Quarantine Quests

Some of you may be coming out of isolation, some of us are still in confusion, but it is imperative that you have completed this list of ten goals to achieve before re-entering the world.
1. Share on Facebook, one a day, the covers of thirty books that have shaped your life. If you have not even read thirty books in your whole life you have time to read them now.


2. Share on Facebook, one a day, the forty music albums that had an amazing impact on your life. Think carefully about your street cred and decide what image you wish to project.
3. Train your dog or any pet to do amazing tricks and post them all over social media. Not got a pet? Now is the time to raise a puppy, cub or foal while you are at home all the time.

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4. Upcycle just about anything to plant plants in and post smug pictures to demonstrate your green credentials.

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5. For the more ambitious, design and create a totally new garden with a wow factor that will mean you never need to go on holiday, or even out again. No garden, no problem. Create a hanging garden on your balcony. No balcony, no windows? Create a terrarium. But don’t forget to post the pictures.

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6. Create new dishes from scratch and share one a day – share on the internet, the good news is you don’t have to actually share the food, you can eat it all yourself.

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7. Macro photography is ideally suited to your new insular life. All you need are a few flowers and endless patience so you get shots of bumble bees, butterflies and dragonflies that are superior to the millions of others on Instagram.

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8. If you haven’t tried them before, take up cycling and jogging and be sure to post regular accounts on Facebook of how far and fast you have been. You may even get a starring role on social media if your picture is taken by walkers complaining on the local Facebook group about the idiot cyclist or jogger who breathed too heavily when they sped past.


9. Laid up with a sprained ankle after number 8? No excuse for not taking up sewing. By now you should have made at least a thousand ineffective facemasks out of your old Tshirts or flowery sundress… And also created the longest rainbow/ hearts / We Love NHS banner in your road so you will be ready for number Ten.

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10. The only time you see another human will depend on which country you are living in. Perhaps you are out every evening clapping for something or someone. In the UK we are out at 8pm every Thursday clapping and banging saucepans for the NHS and anybody who is actually out working. But that is not enough. You must get your road or block of flats on the local news that night, or better still the ten o’clock national news. You will need one bag piper marching down the street signalling it is eight o’clock, a string quartet playing on the front lawn, lots of cute children glad to be delaying bed time and an out of work opera singer leading a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ Just make sure everyone is two metres apart to avoid a media storm of disapproval.

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Have you achieved any of these goals?

Friday Flash Fiction 636 – Bicycle

Cassie logged off her computer with relief, another work week at an end. She rotated her shoulders and stretched her back, longing to get out on her bike; she smiled to herself, it was like being a child again, out on your bike when you have done your homework and chores.

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It wasn’t quite the freedom of childhood, she mused as she pedalled and picked up speed. The roads were quieter, but there was the added hazard of pedestrians suddenly darting across the road to avoid other walkers. Quiet lanes and cycle paths were busier than they used to be and passing other cyclists or overtaking while keeping a distance was awkward. She wondered where James rode, she had never spotted him among the other cyclists out and about. Perhaps they wouldn’t even recognise each other in their safety helmets.
Cassie braked suddenly as a child wobbled off its scooter onto the road in front of her. The seemingly unaccompanied child lay sprawled near the gutter with no sign of getting up. She glanced back up the road; the parents were chatting across a garden wall to someone standing at their front door, two more children were clambering on the wall. No one in the family had noticed anything amiss, if indeed this child of indeterminate sex and age actually belonged to them. What to do now? If Cassie helped it up she would be breaking the two metre rule of social distancing, but what if a car came speeding along? Delayed shock set in and the child suddenly started bawling. The parents looked up and came rushing along the pavement. Cassie’s relief was replaced by annoyance as they glared accusingly at her.
‘Lucky I managed to brake in time’ she stammered as she hopped back on her bike to distance herself.

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James laughed as she related the story to him later, seated at the computer, glass of wine in hand.
‘Not a relaxing ride then.’
‘No, I was really looking forward to blowing away the cobwebs, the week I’ve had. I almost wish we were back at the office, almost, not quite.’
‘I think I would opt for returning to the office, at least you are in your own home. I feel like an overgrown school boy.’
For a moment Cassie felt a twinge of jealousy, imagining James at work, joking and flirting with the ladies of his department, probably younger and more interesting than her. She dismissed those thoughts and tried to be sympathetic.
‘But it can’t be easy for your mother either if she’s used to living by herself.’
‘That was before lock down, how would she manage without me?’
Very well, thought Cassie. She was feeling more and more sympathy with the mother and irritation with James. Surely moving back home had not been his only option after the divorce.
‘Are you in your old bedroom?’
‘No, no, thank goodness, this is Mum and Dad’s retirement home, downsize, nice quiet little town.’
‘Quiet… that doesn’t sound like anywhere near here.’
James laughed. ‘I’m over the other side of the water, funny we don’t know where each other lives. Stuck over the other side of the water now, ferry hasn’t been running for weeks; I enjoyed that commute to work, bicycle on the boat.’
Cassie found herself feeling relieved. James was at a safe distance in more ways than one, at least while lock down continued. He would remain safely inside her computer screen, no decisions needed yet about whether to meet up. Those blue eyes could not lure her against her better judgement… into what she wasn’t sure…
‘So where did you grow up?’ she steered the conversation back onto safer ground, away from the present or his failed marriage. She sat back and sipped her wine, ready to enjoy one of his funny stories.

Friday Flash Fiction 636 – Fur Babies

‘Pompom’ called a shrill voice.

When did real dogs turn to toys wondered Vince as he trudged through the mud, conspicuous as the only human without a dog. The dogs skittering around two women did not match the environment, what happened to Labradors and Rottweilers? As if in answer, a large muddy dog, originally yellow, bounced playfully out of the bushes only to find itself attacked by a tiny ball of white cotton wool.

‘Pompom, naughty boy, heel.’

The Labrador’s owner laughed, so did Vince until the ball of fluff veered towards him, jumping up growling to snap at his ankle.

‘If he was an American Pit Bull,’ said Vince gruffly ‘you’d be in trouble with the police.’

The owner scooped up Pompom and marched away as if he had incited the attack.

The walking business, to avoid blood pressure tablets and type two diabetes, was proving to be worse than going to the gym. Vince’s life of crime had not involved exercise, he had had other people to do that for him. But he hated hospitals, so he had no alternative but alternative therapy.

He paused to avoid a large puddle and looked up to see a young man pushing a three wheeler cross country pram. Inside it was a miserable looking baby, but slung under the man’s arm was a baby sling with a fluffy white face poking cheerfully out.

‘It’s even muddier further along’ said Vince, imagining with relish the pram getting stuck and baby falling out.

‘I know,’ said the man cheerfully ‘we must be mad. Oh, you haven’t got a dog… this one’s getting on a bit so he can’t walk far.’

That was when Vince had his idea. Fluffy toys didn’t attack Vince the Mincer and get away with it.

 

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On the internet that evening he looked up breeds of dogs, it turned out the mini monster cotton wool ball was actually a valuable breed. Vince looked up battery operated toys and ordered some ‘Fur Babies’ – barking, bouncing, battery operated toy dogs that looked remarkably realistic.

His daily two mile walks had a purpose now. Among the many mutant miniature wolves he encountered, Pompom was a regular, his owner had a strict routine, returning to the car park at the same time each day.

At the dog parlour he bought a National Trust green puppy sling.

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Vince hid in the bushes, hoping no one would think he was a flasher. Did blokes do that any more, he wondered, or was it all on the internet? In five minutes Pompom should pass that way, trying to avoid having the lead attached to his diamond studded collar. For Pompom was a real dog at heart, who preferred puddles and fresh air to the pink Kar with its sticker ‘Precious Pet on board’.

Some ancestral lupine instinct stirred in little Pompom as Vince waved the dripping fresh raw meat. Within seconds he was in the bushes, within seconds he was bound in the puppy sling and Vince was switching on the battery operated Pompom doppelganger.

‘Pompom, here Pompom, Mummy’s got a treat for you.’

Vince remained motionless, one large hand clamped round Pompom’s tiny muzzle. He remained just long enough to see the toy dog trot obediently out of the bushes and the owner bend down to pick up him up. Her scream attracted the attention of other dog walkers and Vince slipped away.

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At home, Pompom was in an old rabbit cage and Vince was wondering if he should put the dog on EBay or if a ransom demand would yield more money, or perhaps he could do both.

That night he taped a notice on the window of the little coffee kiosk in the car park.

FOUND – ADORABLE WHITE MINIATURE DOG.

IF YOU ARE THE FRANTIC OWNER

PLEASE PHONE THIS NUMBER…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beds to Boogie Bounce

 

One of my early memories when there was just me, was of my mother taking me round to visit her friend who had three sons, a livelier household than ours and I was especially excited when the boys said we were allowed to jump on the settee. It was great fun until their mother walked in the room and told them off, followed by mother who of course told me off.

With the advent of garden trampolines perhaps children don’t jump on beds anymore, but for most of us that is the first introduction to trampolining. At this point I should add that there was plenty of fun and exercise to be had at our flat as Dad had built me a miracle of carpentry and engineering; a rocking horse that was a small scale version of the ones in the park.  By the time we had a house with a garden and I had a brother, sister and a friend round the corner with a big family, the two dads had built us everything from Wendy houses to climbing frames. Plenty of play, but no bouncing.

My first opportunity to go on a real trampoline came in first year high school in Australia; a girls’ camp where the trampoline was the lure to come on a  Christian holiday in the lovely Darling Ranges. A week that inspired Jenny’s school trip in my novel Quarter Acre Block.

I never mastered a somersault and we returned to the boredom of softball, netball and PE at school until a new Phys-ed teacher arrived from England. He had floppy blonde hair, reminded us of  Illya Kuryakin from The Man From Uncle and we all wanted to be in his class. He taught us fun things like Jujitsu and using a ‘trampette’ to leap over the wooden horse. Then he moved on to another school.

Forward a good few years and at the local sports centre Popmobility classes started two evenings a week, very addictive, followed by a new Ladies’ Leisure Morning complete with crèche. At last we could have a go on the big trampolines we had looked at enviously when we took our children to classes. There was also roller skating at weekends to which children were allowed to bring an adult. If you’re enjoying something it usually doesn’t last, classes get cancelled, buildings close and line dancing went the same way as the other activities.

We then belonged to various leisure clubs with pools, Jacuzzis and gyms, ranging from fantastically smart and too expensive to cheap and dire. When we moved I discovered Aquarobics. It was great fun and exercised the parts swimming didn’t reach, but the local hotels and council pools lost teachers and closed classes at regular intervals. By the time the water dried up I had missed the Zumba craze and avoided Yoga and Pilates as too serious. When I read on Facebook about  Boogie Bounce with Mel above our Sainsbury’s Local on a Monday morning, it sounded too handy to be missed.  We each have a little round trampoline of the sort children used to have till the giant garden types appeared. Like any exercise class you get out of it according to the effort put in, but bouncing around is more fun than circuits of the gym and every part gets stretched. It is like Aquarobics without the water and your brain also gets exercise as you try to follow the routine. It’s always good for writers to have an antidote to sitting at the computer, but don’t think of new ideas for the plot of your novel as you are exercising; you are bound to lose concentration on the routine and get your legs and arms in a  tangle.