Many years ago, I was told a joke by an old local croonie: Geordie had a bad back and eventually went to visit his doctor. His doctor asked him 'George, can you walk?' to which Geordie replied 'work? a canna waak nivor mind work!' Now at this point, my local friends may be smiling, although to be fair they are far more likely to be groaning, whilst on the other hand, my southern friends (particularly those who live near The Fens) will be scratching their heads trying to see whats funny!
I've had to do a lot of waaking recently on account of um bongo being rather poorly. Poorly would be putting it mildly, less a tummy bug and more open heart surgery. This has therefore confined said vehicle to it's own sick bay for rather a long time. Now although I like the Bongo very much, sentiment goes out the window and in the cruel harsh world of cash, the only question worth asking was 'am I better off selling it for scrap?' Fortunately Mrs F agreed with me that we had no choice but to sort the problem and I put in a call to my Specialist Mechanic Consultant to go ahead with the operation.
So it is therefore that for the last 5 weeks, I've had to resort to 'shanks pony' in order to get from A to B. Living as we do at the top of a hill has meant that outward journeys have been, if not pleasurable then certainly not taxing. Trying to persuade Tigger and Biff to walk to school has not been too stressful although there have been mornings when I've threatened the Titian One that she would be walking (not waaking - you have to speak proper when you're trying to clearly convey a message with grave importance and impending consequences to your children!) thats right walking to school in her pyjamas unless she got a move on pronto. I thought the female species were able to muli task but this one breaks the mould, for she cannot possibly watch horrid henry whilst at the same time eating a cereal bar. Add to that the whole concept of brushing her hair or her teeth..........you get the picture. No, the walk TO school has not be the problem, it has been the return journey that has caused the issues.....or has it?
The usual scene on collection of children (on a good day) is for both of them to come bounding up to me and then promptly dump book bags, packed lunch carriers and swimming kits at my feet before proceeding to run off. I am willing to take some of the load - book bags - but the remainder will be redoposited on to said children by whatever means in takes, although I stop short of using a half nelson!....... imagine a bad day! So it was on day 1 without Bongo that I told them we would be walking home. To see the look on their faces followed by the protests, you'd think I'd asked them to go on a 20 mile yomp with the Paras carrying three times their body weight up and down Cheviot. It was a ridiculous and unprecedented reaction and it required of me - demanded even- to show proper parental control of the situation...........'How about I buy you both a donut?' I said. Immediately, the burden of impending journey appeared to lift to the extent that I was practically dragged with undue haste to low cost supermarket where my bribary would cost me the sum total of 46p - money well spent! Choose your battles as they say!
I don't remember much more about that journey home, but over the next few weeks some things came to light in a surprisingly good way. Yes, the journey home involved me putting my hand in my pocket to the tune of 46p on a regular basis but I worked out that this for the children was part of the journey home rather than refusing to walk another yard without due sustinence. Yes, I did at times feel a bit like a Sherpa carrying all the gear as the budding mountaineers strode out ahead but I enjoyed the good natured banter between them. Yes, there were times particularly with the 'why use 10 words when 100 is far more fun' little girl when she would protest that her little legs were struggling to cope but, there were also times when she opened up about something she did at school or the type of dog she would like to have ('only when I'm eleven mind Dad') and how she'd been told by Miss M that she did some great leaps in ballet. Even oldest child would quote his favourite line from Despicable Me 2 ('Hey Dad..........bottoms') before collapsing in laughter. All something and nothing stuff, and yet as I reflected, it was the walk that enabled this to happen in a very natural way. Both of them were arriving home for the most part in a far better frame of mind than when I pick them up in the Bongo and get them home a lot quicker. That's not to say that they are both sweetness and light on arriving home mind you; there is still the bickering over who sits in what chair and differences of opinion about what they will watch or do, but overall that journey home over the last few weeks has gone from a chore in my own mind to something I look forward to and, whilst they may not say it, I suspect the offspring also agree.
Will these lessons stay with me when beloved Bongo has recuperated? I hope so. It would be very easy to slip back into the old routine of filling the diary with more things on account of being able to get here and there quicker but at what expense? Would I have got to hear my daughter talking in animated terms about her day? Possibly, but would I have been in the right frame of mind to hear it? Maybe not.
I've benefitted from the walks - physically and emotionally. I'm also learning some spiritual lessons too - I think more when I walk, I pray more when I walk, I consider things with a far healthier frame of mind which have a positive impact on my decision making process, when I walk. Best of all, I don't feel guilty about building in more time to walk, I feel released. Even on dark days, I can still hear a whisper where God says 'come on Chris, how about you and I go for a wander' #itsgoodtowaak