Friday, 11 May 2012

A Single Step

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Many of you will recognise this as a quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, in the Tao Te Ching written in the 6th Century BC, for those of you that didn’t know this, you’re welcome!  Now go out and amaze your friends.  The lesson is obvious isn’t it, we all have to begin somewhere and we need to take the first step.  Northumberland is not a thousand miles away, actually just under a quarter of that, but setting out to go there was still exciting.  We went on holiday to the Breamish Valley in the summer whilst my wife was pregnant, we chose Northumberland because of the stunning scenery and wonderful coastline and the opportunity to walk in the countryside.  That was not exactly how the holiday went.
You will remember from the last post that my wife, in keeping with most pregnant women I imagine, had become extremely tired after becoming pregnant, and as such, an energetic walking holiday was probably not the ideal solution, but we had booked it before she was pregnant so we went anyway.   And everything started off very well.  The journey up was good and the weather was fine.  There were horses in the field just outside our cottage and we had planned in a good rest once we got there, which was handy, because as soon as we arrived my wife had spotted the sofa and snuggled herself into it.  It was a nice sofa, (you can see a picture of it here) which was good because over the week my wife would become inextricably linked with that sofa.  We spent a lot of time in our cottage that week; B just slumbering, me reading a book about Julian the Apostate (for those of you that are interested it was this book, which happened to be in the cottage already, and although it is speculative and takes a few liberties with the history, it is a good read when all you have to do is sit and wait for your wife to wake up.  This is a better book if you want to learn about his life.)

There is only so much Gore Vidal I can take in one go however so we decided that we would go out and see some of the countryside.  Our plan consisted of a short drive, followed by a bit of a walk followed by a short drive home.  The trick, you see, is to manage your expectations, don’t bite off more than you can chew.  So we set off, destination the unknown with only our map and our wits and the car and some supplies, and our coats.  My wife is not one to pack light.  I’m going to spoil the punchline by telling you right up front that we got lost; the roads in front of us didn’t seem to correlate with anything that I could see on the map.  We were in the middle of what was quite stunning scenery but all I could see were little green squiggles, even when I wasn’t looking at the map.  Try it some time, in fact have a go now, I’m happy to wait for you. Stare at a map in increasing panic and then look up quickly and all you will see are millions of little worms all beckoning you in their direction.

If you’re back, and have followed the instructions you will now be in a much better position to appreciate just how I was feeling, though probably unable to actually read any of this.  My map reading skills had failed me; we were driving in what was probably still Northumberland, but, based on length of time travelled and what the map was telling me, could possibly have been Gibraltar.  All this time of course we were being followed by a man in a van, who clearly knew where he was going and wasn’t appreciating the obstacle of our car in front of him.  And then, in the midst of this epic journey, out of the corner of my eye not infected by green squiggles, I saw a ford.  My wife, who was driving also saw it and slammed on the brakes.  If you participated in the experiment before now I need you to go and stand in front of the bath, with someone behind you jockeying you into it.  If that person could also sound a foghorm in your ear that would be good too, although I appreciate many of you won’t have a fog horn lying around.  Perhaps they could just honk in your ear to give you a flavour.  My wife was rightly hesitant about braving the raging torrent before us, our car was not the most reliable and could throw a fit at the slightest of things so it was unlikely to take kindly to a body of water which looked like it had been summoned by Gandalf himself.  It was less between a rock and a hard place than between an ocean and a hard man.  We decided to brave the hard man.  We executed a flawless 93 point turn and slipped past the van. 

If you have been following on with the story you will probably have spotted that no walking has so far taken place.  I was keen to rectify this so we drove around a bit more until we found a spot to park up by the side of the road which led to a walk through a forest.  I’m afraid I can’t be more specific as I had literally no idea where we were.  So we ventured out.  The path started with a short uphill before looking like it flattened out a bit.  I would love to be able to describe more of it, how the birds sang in the trees, how as we got further in amongst the trees you could hear the swish as they swayed in the breeze, how the sun beat down on us and the squirrels played in the branches, but I’m afraid it would be pure fiction because we had only managed to get roughly 20 metres from the car before B declared that that was as far as she could go.  She was out of breath and struggling and couldn’t walk another step.  So we turned on the sat nav, found our way back to our cottage in the end and got reacquainted with the sofa, which by this point had probably sent out a search party considering that this was as long as we had been apart in the short time we had known each other.

There is another tale to tell about this holiday, which has nothing to do with either being a father or B being pregnant, and so falls outside of our remit, but which I will share with you at the weekend as it really deserves an airing.  For now however just remember the lesson we have learnt today.  You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t begin, although sometimes you don’t get anywhere even when you do.

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