In which I grow a large moustache and spout the Telegraph.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

What the f*ck? Where the hell is the X-Box? Tell me the mad bitch doesn't think we're gonna play outside with that shitey pile of branches and old string. Get my mobile now. I've got Max Clifford on speed dial.

The bloody dog ran away this morning on our walk. She's still only a puppy but she's also a shocking tart; she will go home with pretty much anyone that gives her a bit of attention and we all know girls like THAT. She charged off to the corner of the field and into the graveyard, following a golden retriever and a tall man in a waxed jacket. I scrambled over the wall and cut them off, grabbing her collar and redeeming her reputation. The man was most amused that I'd climbed a wall. Perhaps he thought I was too sophisticated for such child-like pursuits. More likely he thought I was too old.

On the long hike back, I was remembering the many many walls I have climbed in my time. As children, before the Abdication, the Northen Socialist used to take us walking for miles about the North of England. Sometimes we came across natural obstacles; sometimes he went on ahead and made them for us. We kids then had to make bridges and walkways; the higher and more dangerous the better. Bits of wood, old tyres, rope and haybales. Fording freezing streams, often falling in. Climbing trees and great dry stone walls; inventing labrynth plank-lined passages high above the fields; stalking imaginary lions in the fells.

My own children, and several others, once spent a whole day under the Colonel's command, re-routing a river in the Lake District. They moved tons of stones, ferns, soil. Some of the operation took place up a cliff; some waist-deep in water. There were duckings and grazes and squabbles, but eight filthy happy faces cheered a new torrent through the gloaming as night fell. But it was a rare day; they certainly weren't Macguyvering suspension bridges out of old cardboard and string on a weekly basis. More's the pity.

I know it's fashionable to decry the lack of physical challenges our children face, but I think they are losing out more on the mental and emotional benefits. Not to give up straight away. To laugh at yourself when you can't do something instead of casting about for someone to do it for you. To admire those who quietly don't give up instead of whining, sobbing-in-newspapers arseholes who think that making your lack of spine public absolves you of responsibility. To encounter a challenge and bloody well give it a go, not crumple pathetically and bemoan the cards fate dealt you.

I came home bristling about this. The Colonel is begging me to spend less time alone. And to start drinking again. He's probably got a point.


  1. You are right E, a sad trait of today's society is some people think life has a reboot button. You do have to take what you have and make it into a life, You are a very wise, you wall climbing dame, you!

  2. Indeed! It's not just about getting outside and exercise, there is so much more to it than that, these things (although I am loath to say it for fear of sounding like an 80year old man) are character building.

  3. James - you were much on my mind through the mud! I think I am turning into you...

    Heather - I think we're all entitled to a bit of geriatric shouting of a Saturday morning. Fill your boots, girl.

  4. It is somewhat frightening to see children glued to TV's, wired to IPods, and addicted to Facebook. They definitely absolutely need to go outdoors and run, build, dream. Not all have dales and fields to romp about in. Even some hiking, some playing, some sports activity would be good enough. Not only! That's what saddens me. Great fun and oh, so true post. Merci.

  5. I am sitting in my robe, drinking coffee, glued to my laptop reading blogs!
    Note to self; go out for a walk, climb a wall, reroute a river, get muddy! actually am taking 83 year old mummy to the local production at the theatre this afternoon...will be sitting for 2 hours.

  6. In the United States, parents will not even allow their children to walk to school - even when sidewalks are available - for fear of pedophiles (paedophiles?). The vast majority of children are either picked up by bus or driven by their parents. A large part is that in the 1950s and 60s, all the new schools were built outside of center cities and in suburban areas where building sidewalks were not required. But even then, children did walk and ride their bikes to school Over the past 30 years, this has totally changed, with parents just being terrified of anything that might happen to their kids, so kids are delivered to school. Anyone who wonders why childhood obesity is such a huge issue in the US should understand that. And if parents won't even allow their kids to walk to school, and insist on scheduling every out of school moment they have with sports and other hyper-organized activities, what time do children have to dream, dig, play on their own, get muddy, move rocks?

  7. Els, These are the moments when I wish I could see you as well as hear you in my head.

    Do you know that in the States, or so I've been told (someone will surely correct me if I'm mistaken) children who show-up and participate in a sport, i.e. -- I don't know -- running, tennis, badminton and so on, are given little awards. An award for showing up?

    I ask you, what does that teach a child? OK, winning isn't everything, we all know how much fun it is to come in third, but for heaven's sake as my mother would have said.

    And while I'm on a rant, what's wrong with parents? Why don't they teach their children good manners? Do they want them to be shunned, humiliated and avoided as they head into adulthood or wherever they plan on heading.

    Now I'm babbling. That's probably because I DID NOT have a vodka tonight. This is the end of alcohol until the regime, starting tomorrow, is finished. Before the preliminary weigh-in tomorrow morning I'm trying to see if I can find any ice cream in the house so have to sign off now.

    Wish me luck -- for all three of the above: no alcohol, the regime and the ice cream.


  8. I feel terribly guilty that my son is just not an outdoors type of child. He's okay on holiday but on a normal weekend he's so bloody lazy, lounging on the sofa in his room (yes, my own fault, he likens his room to a studio apartment), talking to girls on MSN and Facebook and coming down regularly to raid the pantry. I try saying "let's go for a walk" but with no commitment as I'd rather stay in too. Shoot me now, bad parent that I am...

  9. Mrs. E.'s father, former UDT man that he is, would hike the two children six to eight hours up the mountains in Venezuela so that they might collect a different sort of orchid for the collection growing on the tree in the back yard. Both are very tough and hearty probably as a result. She always smiles when she tells these stories.

  10. How I look forward to your posts, Els - picture captions especially. I have been reading The Dangerous Book for Boys to my son, hoping to teach him that there is more to life than Lego Star Wars on the Wii. We need to channel the spirit of Captain Oates, and Shackleton! And Mallory, who attempted to climb Everest in a hacking jacket!

  11. JADH and Toby - lovely people after my own heart!

    Hostess and Trish - see me after school.

    Tish - goodness, bonne chance with all that!!

    Easy, yes, my dad was like that but I am less gracious than your wife and scowl when telling mine.

    Milady Waving - how lovely of you. For some more horrible Mallory facts, and the origin of meat lozenges, go and visit my buddy Maxminimus, who has a bit of a Mallory obsession...


Please leave a comment if you can be remotely bothered - anything you have to say is valuable and I absolutely love hearing from you all. Elizabeth