The Best Days of Their Lives

The everyday stories of family life, told with love and joy

Month: January 2014

A walk in the park

Is that a squirrel up your trousers or are you pleased to see me? Um, it’s a squirrel. Thankfully it was on the outside. Today was the first time that I experienced a squirrel running up my leg. It’s not something I’ve sought to experience and it’s not something I’m keen to do again.

We were in the southern end of Greenwich Park, on our way back from watching the deer in their enclosure. Ahead of us some people had been feeding crisps to the squirrels. Then we realised that everyone else was feeding nuts to the squirrels. So they get inquisitive and climb up people’s trousers. I shook the vermin off – I was a bit concerned it was going to try and reach my son who was sitting on my shoulders.

For several years we’ve arranged a walk around New Year’s day. We usually get out of London but with our son now toddling we have changed our criteria. Now we want somewhere he can walk about and not get too muddy, we want to travel less and walk a smaller distance. And realising that the weather forecast was predicting that today would be the only good day before we went back to work, we brought the walk forward by two days.

So we stayed in town, walking from Brockley to Greenwich, around the park and home again. That’s the summary, anyway. The longer version involves meeting our friend O, going to a park, stopping for lunch at a bench and a long coffee break in the National Maritime Museum.

We met all of our criteria except the distance – all told we walked 8.5 miles today! I kept the GPS count going all day so including the stops our journey took almost exactly 6 hours.

Parkrun in the rain

“Happy new year! It’s a lovely day for staying inside!” I was on the final lap of Hilly Fields parkrun. The rain was almost horizontal and i was about to turn and tackle the final hill of my first parkrun of 2014. A woman was coming the opposite way to me, looking rather annoyed to be out in the rain and somewhat underprepared for it, and I gave her this hearty greeting. I got a laugh from her.

I have a sodding cold that I can’t quite shake off, so it was touch and go this morning as to whether I would run. But three things persuaded me. One, I had signed up to Janathon and January had begun. Two, there was a parkrun on up the road. Three, it’s important to me, as a father, to look after myself so that I can be the best dad that I can be and sometimes that means running in the driving rain.

Parkrun is a free 5km timed run that takes place in parks up and down the UK every Saturday, as well as on odd extra days like Christmas day and New Year’s day. You register with the administrative charity at www.parkrun.org.uk, then turn up at a local event. With some wizardry they record your time and that’s more-or-less it. Except it’s also about friendship and about looking out for one another.

This morning was pretty miserable. It was raining. It was wet. There were big puddles everywhere. But by 10am 79 of us were gathered in Hilly Fields park, on the edges of Brockley, Ladywell, Lewisham and Honor Oak. Seventy-five of us were runners and 4 were hardy volunteers.

With my annoying cold I knew that I had to take it easy. But take it easy and run? I find that very hard indeed. At first I thought that I might try to run at the back. But then I realised that I didn’t really want to hang around that much. So I settled for mindful running and stopping to appreciate what I experienced. I recorded my worst ever time, coming in at just under 34 minutes for the full 5,000 metres. But I had a really nice time. I stopped to chat to two people.

One guy, Paul, has a son around the same age as mine and runs occasionally. Today he was pushing his son in his buggy.

The other was an old guy I saw at a bus stop on the perimeter of the park. He appeared to be rubbing the end of a stick against the bus stop window. It turned out that he was trying to rub off some of the adhesive from stickers that people had posted on the bus stop. He was waiting for a bus and so had a few minutes. He thought the bus stop looked nicer without graffiti and marks from old posters so he was trying to clean it. As I ran off I noticed that he threw his stick away. Maybe his action was something private and when held up to public scrutiny it felt a bit awkward. But I felt that it was a touching gesture. Small and probably never noticed before or again.

At the end of the run someone pointed out that Glenn Hancock had made some cake to share and that we should help ourselves. As it was Rocky Road I decided to give myself a cake pass for the morning and have a piece. It was delicious! Thanks Glenn.

Glenn wasn’t there to give out the cake because he was still on the course, staying with his son, who was finishing his 4th parkrun. Respect to both of them for staying the course and especially to Glenn for modelling how to be a great dad!

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