I have so many craft projects on the go at the moment, but nothing at the stage of sharing. So I thought for a change I’d share part of my country life.
This is my 14th year of walking down our little lane, on the school and childcare run. The combination of babies/toddlers/school children/dogs have varied, but there has always been me. Donning boots. Ready to dodge cars and cyclists, whilst ensuring none of my brood ends up in front of oncoming vehicles.
There are no pavements. We walk along the edge of the lane, with high hedgerows on either side. Some sections of the lane are single carriage. We often encounter horse riders and even a pony and trap. It is a country lane.
You would be amazed at how fast and close people think it is OK to race their cars passed pedestrians on a narrow country lane. It is close. Common sense seems to disappear. They’ll dodge a bramble or branch that is overhanging the road, for fear of scratching their paintwork, but squeeze past a child within inches. All as close to the national speed limit as possible, because that’s what the road signs say they can do. I’ve often thought about wearing a coat of barbed wire. It would make them think twice about driving so close. That crazy lady again.
Most car drivers are considerate.
I could use the taxi which the council would supply, free of charge. I’ve always turned it down. The walk is 10 minutes and we love seeing the seasons change along the lane. More importantly, I need the exercise.
So we walk. Spotting toads, deer, birds and flowers as we go.
There came a point, during those years, where I had a hand free to hold a dog lead. At last, I could combine the school run with the dog walk. A complete time saver, but with it came a whole set of new considerations. If you have ever walked a dog to school, I think you’ll be familiar with a few of these.
1. Not knowing which hand to wave to friends in passing cars. There is an ensuing puppet-on-a-string hand act, as I try to decide whether to wave the hand with the lead in it, and risk the dog’s neck, or the one holding the…ahem… used poo bag. Inevitably I end up waving a poo bag at my friend, as they drive past. Invites to come round for coffee, dry up.
2. The moment I’m somewhere remotely smart, I reach into my pocket and release an avalanche of unused poo bags. Declaring as loudly as possible that they are clean, as I hastily recapture them all. Cross another venue/job interview off my list.
3. On the walk, inevitably someone will comment about the size of my dog. Often strangers, slowing down their cars, wind down their windows, to share their insight. “Put a saddle on her and ride her to school“. “Is it a pony?” “Isn’t that a big doggie?” I laugh in a friendly manner. It’s OK. Still funny. Even after hearing it approximately 71,529 times before. Sigh. I wish I was exaggerating.
4. Reaching the school gate, small dogs dash up and yap at her. She stands still. “What is it? Will I tread on it? What happens if I do tread on it? I’m listening intently out of pure politeness”. We will never know what she is thinking. For my part, I’m hoping that the smaller dog doesn’t launch itself at her throat and condemn us to a morning spent at the vets. Again.
5. My dog is a thief. No two ways about it. As she passes, she is tall enough to grab cookies from children’s hands or rifle through handbags for sandwiches. It’s true. Often it is so quick neither party realise until it’s too late. Oops! Sorry. Turn tail quickly and wonder how to persuade husband to do the school runs for the rest of the week/term.
6. My dog loves children. She’s grown up with them, so she loves them. A crying child apparently needs a face wash, in her mind. Babies in prams, well, they need face washes anyway. Even if it means rifling through blankets to find them. Just need to make sure all grown-up humans are looking elsewhere. Ah-ah. Oh. No. I’m on to you my furry friend.
7. Identifying three types of children. First type will plaster themselves spreadeagled against the wall as we pass. Velcroed to the nearest building, out of pure terror of a dog. Any dog. Second group will throw their arms around her, sometimes remembering to ask first. Third group ignore her. May absent mindedly run a hand along her back. Take appropriate action for each type of child.
8. Having the conversation about why people leave poo bags hanging in the branches of hedges. Nope, I have no idea either. Yes, I do know it looks horrible. Sigh. Just because I have exploding pockets, full of ready to use bags, doesn’t mean I understand either. Maybe it’s a protest. Maybe there’s a clearing-up pixie that no one told me about. I use the provided marked bins. Smile politely.
9. Never underestimate the memory or scent ability of a dog. Even three or four years later, she still insists on stopping to sniff where a rotting badger was on the side of the road. It has long gone, but not to my dog. Again? Really?
10. She has learnt where I like to stop and listen to the birds. She understands when I want to take photos, and she has my back. At home, she jumps up, even from deep sleep, to join me for a walk. Whatever the weather. She is the perfect walking companion.
I know dogs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve worked hard to train her to be a dog that behaves well and is a good ambassador at the school gate, or wherever she meets people and other dogs.
Most of all, I love her company. She is no spring chicken and has reached the upper end of her breed’s lifespan, so I count every day as a blessing with her. We have just over a year of school runs left for youngest. I hope she’s around to accompany me even on the very last one. Or maybe by then, I can send her down by herself to pick up the Boy. There’s a thought….
Years ago, I lived near Stonehenge. It was one of those places that we visited regularly. Especially when friends came to stay. One of the advantages of being local, was that you knew the best time to visit. I’m not sure if it was a well kept secret, but during the winter months, on one day a week, you could go right up to the stones. No barriers.
(My mother and my two sisters in the middle of Stonehenge – December 1984)
There was a little wooden shed among the stones, which an official sheltered from the weather and was on hand to answer questions. I guess also to make sure we didn’t damage the old stones. I think that is snow in the background.
This was Stonehenge to me.
Years later, I visited the stones again, with my husband, over several summer solstices. Carrying a babe in a sling and holding tight to the hand of our toddler. Again, we could go right up to the stones. It was a different experience. Instead of a few hardy locals, now the stones were thronging with masses of people and noise. Drums, singing and horns. Everyone waiting for the sun to rise. It was different, to say the least, but the stones were still the stones.
It has been a few years, but this weekend we took all three children to Stonehenge. First time we had seen the new visitor centre. Very different. We parked up and headed to the centre. It is run by English Heritage. National Trust and English Heritage members can go in free. The £5 parking fee is waived too. It is refunded for everyone when they buy the entrance ticket to the site.
There is a fleet of shuttle buses that must spend all day, busing people to and from the centre to the stones. Alternatively, you can walk the 1 and a half miles, as we did, over the Stonehenge Landscape route.
It became a competition. Who would see Stonehenge first. The younger two raced each other. It was so funny watching them. Every now and again, they would try to push the other one off the path, to gain an advantage. I don’t think they noticed how far we walked, or ran, in their case. I think this is the best way to reach the Stones.
A low rope fence shows visitors where to walk, but is ground hugging enough not to intrude on the view. We walked around the stones, but never among them. There were a lot of people going round, but not enough to feel crowded. No problem getting a family photo in front of the stones.
I couldn’t help chuckling at how many people walked around with their backs to the stones. Taking selfies of themselves in front of the stones. That was different. I wonder if they turned round and saw them for real.
Back at the visitors’ centre, we went round the museum which gives a wonderful surround experience as if you are standing in the middle of the stones, through the ages. Going back, to see it with all the stones in place. Also artifacts dug up. Setting the scene. Answering questions.
Including how many friends you would need to bring along to help you move one of those great, big stones.
I loved going back again. It was different, but the stones were still the stones.
I’ll go again, I’m sure. We will probably drag the children back to see the sunrise sometime soon, for the summer Solstice, because everyone needs to do that once. Or maybe more.
Linking up to #CountryKids. Have you been out and about recently?