A Walk Along the River

I had the day off work yesterday – a day away from the office, programming, computers – a day away from everything. The children have been on half-term this week, so I thought it might be an idea to try and spend the day with them – to do something together. This plan was of course doomed to failure, because our house has served as nothing more than a temporary boarding house for our children’s friends throughout half-term, with sleepover after sleepover.

We ended up going for our walk – but left two of our children behind – keeping a friend company that had invited herself for a sleepover the night before. We don’t mind children staying over at all – but do like our own house back from time to time. Almost unbelievably, five minutes after telling the kids “NO MORE SLEEPOVERS FOR ONE NIGHT PLEASE”, she walked back into the lounge, phone in hand, and asked if one of her friends could stay. She prefaced it with “I know this is short notice, but…”.

So anyway – yes – we went for a walk along the river to the next village along with our eldest daughter. We put on our walking boots, wrapped up warm, and set off. The route out of town takes you past the rugby club where our middle girl played for several years, and then out to the bank of the River Thames – the river that eventally arrives in London and snakes to the sea – the river the Oxford and Cambridge rowing boats race on each spring.

Along the way we saw endless ducks, swans, geese, and people walking barely controlled dogs. One highlight was a particularly spirited terrier of some kind trying desperately to rip a river-bank nest to pieces while it’s owners stood helplessly shouting some ridiculous name at it (that it took no notice of).

We had hoped to stop at a riverside pub for a drink before walking back, but discovered it was OF COURSE shut. It’s a rule of the universe, isn’t it – wherever you are going will be shut if it can be. We ended up sitting in a coffee shop in the town centre, rather than in a pub on the riverside. Hardly the same thing.

While walking we took photos, told stories, laughed, joked, and then tried to ignore Miss 18 complaining about her legs acheing for the last couple of miles. I forgot how good teenagers are at complaining – or how little logic any conversation around complaints tends to involve:

“My legs ache”

“That’s because you’re unfit – if you do this more, they won’t”

“By my legs ache though”

We arrived home late in the afternoon – just in time to start saying no to any more kids arriving (one arrived minutes after our return). I guess I shouldn’t complain too much – I always think it’s kind of nice that there is always something going on at home – it’s just a shame that we rarely get the chance to slow down and switch off though.

While so many other families seem to have everything together, with “just so” houses, our house always looks like it’s just been robbed. The hallway is always festooned with sports kit bags in varying states of readiness. The coat pegs in the hallway are waiting to bury some poor hapless idiot that dares touch them under a mountain of waterproofs and winter coats – some of which none of us can ever recall buying or wearing. The washing machine is always on. The clothes dryer is always on. Every radiator downstairs is always covered in drying towels, and the washing line in the garden is always groaning under the weight of several loads of washing.

I’m not complaining by the way – I’m just describing “the way it is”. For the most part life is good. We somehow manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep making each other laugh, and not get too angry with one another. That’s not too bad, is it ?

Of course going for an 8 mile route march helps a lot with preventing anybody from being angry about anything. Especially if you eat an entire packet of welsh cakes, and drink several cup of tea back-to-back when you get home.

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