Tuesday, February 14, 2006


My son P. rang from university: “What are you doing next weekend?”
“Nothing special. Why?”
“I wondered if you fancied going out for a walk somewhere.”

His question couldn’t have come at a better time. Of course, I fancied it very much indeed, but left to my own devices, fancy was all it would remain; I’d stay trapped in the clutches of the weekly routine. Yet a seed of possibility had already been sown – a few weeks ago, butuki pointed out in a comments thread how easy it could be to achieve some of my outdoors-based dreams. Now P.’s question gave that seed a little water and sunshine and so it began to grow and bear first fruit. In saying “Yes” to my son’s plan, I could claim just enough altruism to tip the balance in its favour: yes, of course it’d be good for him to have a weekend out of the confines of his rodent-infested student flat (I kid you not – they caught 20 mice over Christmas!!) - naturally, I’d be happy to oblige.

His plan, did I say? A careless slip; his idea, I should have said. Somehow, the planning still fell to me. It took my every spare moment, from Sunday night to the moment of departure on Friday evening to prepare (so you see, for once I had a worthy excuse for blogging silence!).

Sunday, consider locations, travel times and possible routes; Monday, firm up on the itinerary; Tuesday, panic when information on the web shows the campsite at which I’d planned to stay on Friday night to be closed until Easter, followed by relief when they return my message left on their answerphone confirming that it is open after all. Wednesday, sort out those items of P.’s gear left at home, plan menus and shop for food; Thursday, check over tent, sort gear and pack my rucksack, noting how over-weight and over-size it is; look enviously at my son’s down sleeping bag (borrowed from his older brother), half the weight and bulk of mine, and lay in bed poring over catalogues of outdoor gear, kept conveniently close at hand. Gear freak? Me? Surely not… Friday before work, unpack rucksack again and remove non-essential items. Note how over-weight and over-size it remains and make last-minute decision to buy a new down-filled sleeping bag to replace my old, cheap, heavy, bulky synthetic filled bag. Make choice – easily done, there’s one clear leader in that price/specification range. Heart sinks when a search the following morning shows it to be out of stock on the website of the only reachable retail stockist. Heart recovers again when a phone call to the London outlet reveals they have one in stock, which they’ll put on one side for me. Slip out of work a little early (shhh!!), pick up sleeping bag, look with satisfaction on now-sensibly loaded rucksack, check over the car and head for Nottingham to pick up P.

As it turned out, it was a very positive end to an uncharacteristically positive week. I’ve been applying for jobs in our new structure at work – one of those reorganisations where the Powers That Be throw all the balls in the air and catch them again in a different order, dropping a few along the way – and on Wednesday I had to do a role-play session as part of the selection process, observed by a psychologist from Assessment and Development. These days, my job requires very little meaningful human interaction – I often end up spending 8 hours in front of a computer with only occasional interruption – and it was a real pleasure to engage with another human being, even though he was an actor and the situation was entirely artificial.

Even the car radio on the way to Nottingham conspired to add to my joyful mood, playing Janacek’s Sinfonietta, followed by extracts from Handel’s Messiah. A just sufficient number of the fingers from my left hand stayed on the steering wheel; the remainder couldn’t help but join in the exuberance, conducting an invisible orchestra. Butuki was right - when one’s delights are so simple, it shouldn’t be difficult to find them.

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