Monday, 28 December 2009

Sticks? Luxury!

We’re in the car, heading to the river for a pre-lunch walk. My nephew is Not Happy.

“I don’t want to go to the river!” he says repeatedly, doing the tried and trusted ‘ironing board’ manouevre to stop me putting the straps on the car seat for him. “There’s only grass and trees and water. It’s BORING”.

“Ha!” I say. “Call that boring? You are SO LUCKY you weren’t little when me and your daddy were. When we were little” I continue, warming to my topic “Grandad used to take us to places where there was absolutely nothing – not even water – well, apart from rain - or trees. Just, mud and grass and cold. And every single day he would make us go out and walk for hours and hours on end. We weren’t even walking TO anywhere. Just walking for the sake of it. One time your daddy got so cold he kept asking what the first signs of hypothermia were, because he thought he had it. We hated it, didn’t we?”

My brother nods grimly. If anything, he hated it more than I did. “It was always cold. And it always rained. And there was nothing to see”.

“And he didn’t really have any food either. Maybe an oatcake or some old Kendal Mint Cake if you were lucky. I bet you don’t know what Kendal Mint Cake is, do you?’

My nephew shakes his head.

“Well it doesn’t matter, because it’s disgusting. It didn’t matter how bad the weather was. Sometimes I would sit at the window and watch the rain slicing across the valley and think ‘maybe today we can stay in?’”

“But oh, no” says my brother “It was never bad enough weather to be let off walking. Do you remember that outhouse?”

“What, the one at Rose Cottage? God, yes”

“That place was so cold. What was it made of, cardboard?”

“You see” I explain to my nephew “When Grandad was really sick of us complaining, he used to shut us in this sort of shed place. And it was cold and damp in the shed and so SO boring”.

“Why did Grandad do that?” says my nephew

“He just wanted us to shut up for a while I think. But there was NOTHING to do in there, we got so bored”.

“Well, there were the boxes of Encyclopaedias under the bed” says my brother, ever fair-minded.

“Damp, mildewed encyclopaedias. Ha! Do you remember what else was under the bed?” I raise my eyebrows meaningfully. There were boxes of mysterious, leathery objects – bondage gear we learnt very much later from my dad – abandoned by his former lodger, Radish.

“I would have said NO GRANDAD” says my nephew, decidedly. “And I would have hid”.

“I wish we had thought of that. But he used to be a lot scarier than he is now”.

The Christmas holidays bring it all back – stiff leather boots filled with dead insects, slightly leaky cagoules, huddled in the back seat of the Alfa as Crystal Gayle blasted out in the front, zero visibility, the vague, illusory promise of a pub (Seabrook Ready Salted and a Coke if you were lucky) somewhere at the end of the epic. The dark years of my vegetarianism, nourished only by dehydrated noodles and tins of beans. Getting into a damp bed heated by the electric blanket to perfect Turkish bath. The terrifying prospect of getting – whisper it – snowed in. I’d confess to a trace of nostalgia, but no more than a trace. Not enough to get me to walk up a hill ever again.

In the end the river walk is salvaged by a brick with a chain through it. It doesn’t take much. Not that we had bricks when we were young..


fourstar said...

"Seabrook Ready Salted"

Now that takes me back, back to when my parents would take us to a pub near Naburn (very near York, for those not furnished with the relevant geography) on the promise that there had been some sightings of a dolphin in the river that ran alongside the end of the beer garden. We used to sit for ages, my brother and I, motionless for fear of spooking the exotic creature, peering out into the murky depths, clutching our packets of the aforementioned snack. Meanwhile, my canny parents enjoyed a quiet couple of pints in the warmth of the snug, by the roaring log fire...

...presumably chuckling at length with the landlord at how utterly gullible kids can be.

Waffle said...

Ahahaaha the mythical Naburn dolphin. I am laughing like a fool. Cunning. Very cunning.

WrathofDawn said...

Bricks? With chains? LUXURY.

Why when I were a child, we 'ad to get up at 10:00 o'clock, half an hour before we went to bed to see a brick.

English Mum said...

Damn. WrathofDawn beat me to it.

Bricks with chains tho? Lucky you.

PS: Loved Elle mag. I cried. No, I really did...

Z said...

My parents never had time to take us for walks when we were young. We sat there while old women quarrelled around us and weren't allowed to speak. You had it lucky, you did.

Kendal Mint Cake? I was 15 before I even tasted Kendal Mint Cake.

Sinda said...

Ha - Crystal Gayle! I listened to a LOT of Crystal Gayle in my childhood. On an 8-Track, no less.

Mrs Jones said...

Show me a man with a beard and I'll show you someone with a penchant for hillwalking and folk music. Every single one of them.

SabinePsynopsis said...

I'm still traumatised by obligatory family walks... (to nowhere)...

The Jules said...

My poor father, who incidentally is bearded, had to suffer the indignities of me and my brothers being children who regulalry went mental if indoors for more than about twenty minutes, and so got dragged out in all sorts of weather when he would've have been happier sat by the fire reading and smoking the occasional ciggy.

Poor bugger.

Grit said...

ah, happy memories! when i went oop northumberland to meet the future motherinlaw, we ceremoniously piled in the car, drove to the road edge at seaton sluice, stared out at the rain merging with the sea, and ate pickle sandwiches with the window wipers thrashing back and forth. all conversation was drowned out by the bashing of nail rain on the car roof. then we all drove home again.

thus i passed the family acceptance test.

GingerB said...

Bricks? Sticks? Mythical dolphins? I had to make my own fun. My parents didn't leave the house save work and church, and sometimes we had church services in our living room. I had to make up lies to leavethe churchy gloom.

MadameSmokinGun said...

You stopped for a view? We just drove round in twisted circles, squares, figures of eight etc until the smell of our house eventually brought us back home after lots of muttering about taking all the road signs down during the war to confuse the Germans and never putting them back up again.

I now use this excuse to my children regularly.

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