EDitorial ± 9-Apr-2001
A Walk On The Wild Side
Family man that I am, and the weather being fair mid-afternoon, off we set in search of somewhere where the girls could have a go on their bikes. Twenty-or-so minutes later we arrived at Alton Water, a popular local spot which features a circuit around the reservoir. Now we'd popped there before a handful of times, though only for a breath of fresh air: I'd never attempted to go all the way round. That's a key point.
Picture the scene: me pushing the pushchair, the girlies peddling away, and with a handy rucksack of juice cartons. La-di-da. Then after a mile or so we come across a short muddy stretch. We can turn around and do the short hop back to the car and cafe, or on we go. And since I'm the responsible adult, I decide that we should proceed. I carry one of the girls through the mud, come back for the other one, take her over, return for the bikes, back once more, and finally drag the pushchair-with-baby-boy through the sludge. Yuck. This was the point of no return.
Not much later it becomes difficult for one of the girls to peddle, since she's trying to use stabilisers on a narrow path. I cleverly balance the bike on one of the pram handles.
Then the eldest one has had enough too, and I somehow manage to hook her saddle over the other handle. Any enjoyment is slowly evaporating, and here's why:
- there's no more fruit juice
- it's nearing tea-time for the boy
- I've failed to bring any baby food
- we're two hours in to our fun Sunday walk and probably not halfway
- the girls are asking how much further it is
- some lads on bikes, going the other way, have warned us about a really muddy bit up ahead
- oh, and the light is starting to go
Did I mention I'd not done the circuit before? Our starting point, car safely parked, is now diametrically opposed to our current position. Being a large stretch of water, there ain't no shortcuts. My worry levels increase. And when I glance up and see a helicopter, I'm thinking that they're out looking for us, for three young fed-up children and their irresponsible father.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. There's some houses off the path a little way ahead, the first sign of civilisation for hours, and it's time to seek help. We wearily head up a handy pathway and are faced with a row of houses. On a hunch I decide to knock at the door of the one with two cars outside. A lady answers, and, after listening to our sob story, answers our prayers. While her mum looks after the girls, she drives me and the baby back to Alton Water: during the ten minute journey, she mentions that we were "about halfway" around the 8 mile perimeter. Our car is the only one left in the car park.
To that lady in Tattingstone: thank you, thank you, thank you. You were a lifesaver. And on the drive home, the girls mentioned that they were not only given a drink and some sweets, but that the nice lady cleaned their shoes!
Now that's what I call the kindness of strangers.
Be seeing you!