Walking With The Wind At My Back: Part One

‘Let’s do something a bit different next year.’

I should have known this would mean redefining the words ‘a bit’. Dad and I and a couple of his friends had just finished the fourth of our summer walking holidays. Dad retired in the late 1980s and to celebrate he and an old friend had walked the North Downs Way that ran from Winchester to Canterbury. They were both in their early sixties, fit and looking for something to mark this life watershed. I joined them for a long weekend, doing a stretch from Dorking in Surrey to somewhere near the Medway river in North Kent. I enjoyed my dad’s company, in the small dollops of a weekend visit, but it wasn’t that long ago that he and I had not spoken for the best part of two years – I moved in to live with my then girlfriend; he decided that this was disgraceful behaviour; I thought him a pillock and told him to grow up; he called me a smart arse lawyer; I said… well let’s say neither of us were good at backing down.

Then I got engaged and everything was ok. Only… you know, there were those unspoken, unresolved issues that men of a certain generation find it difficult to debate. So we skirted around and behind and over that large grey be-trunked animal that sat in the bar with us and got on with things.

The Textiliste was all for me joining in. ‘Talk to him.’

‘Yeah, right. I can see that going down well. I’ll be as popular as a fart in a phone box…’

‘You’ll never have a better opportunity.’ Then the clincher. ‘Do it for your Mum.’

God, she really plays dirty that one.

She was right. We were passing close to where I was born, where he spent most of his life, where his old Alma Mater sat. He started talking about his father, about how it wasn’t until he brought my mum home as his girlfriend that he felt his father actually respected him. How it was only when he joined the Parachute Regiment that he began to feel his father spoke to him as a man. It took me a while to realise he was really talking about us, about how that parent-child relationship changes and how it is the parent who has to change the most, to accommodate the increasing adulthood of the child, to allow them their choices, permit them their mistakes and still be there for them.

He sort of apologised. I sort of accepted it. He said I could perhaps be a bit more gracious. And I hugged him. I’m not sure if either of us expected it. He didn’t hug me back so it did feel a little like I was trying for a front-on Heimlich manoeuvre but it was the thought, you know.

And over three days we laughed like… well, like he did with his friends. The tone of the relationship changed. Subtlety. The banter became standardised.

At the end someone suggested, the next year, they should do the South Downs Way. And include me. If I wanted.

I did so we did it. This time I did the whole thing with them. Then, the next year, the Cotswold Way.

Which brought us to this point, this ‘a bit’ different.

‘Let’s do the Coast To Coast walk.’ St Bees Head on the West Cumbrian Coast, across the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and The North York Moors to Robin Hood’s Bay on the East Coast. 200 miles, less some small change through some of the greatest walking England has to offer. A fortnight. If I could blag the holiday. If I could stand two whole weeks with these old men.

‘Ok.’ I thought, ‘If the Textiliste is happy…’

She was. She’s like that. She understood me. Still does.

Thought she’s never approved of my sock choices…. I mean, what’s wrong with it. They match the hat.

Next Time: St Bees Head, the pebble dash, minivans and Stan the Van, coffee flasks and ‘those fucking hills’.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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48 Responses to Walking With The Wind At My Back: Part One

  1. Ritu says:

    I’m glad you had that opportunity with your dad.
    And I think the socks are rather fetching 😜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They take the mind off the tash

    Liked by 1 person

  3. trifflepudling says:

    Great start to this serialised story – looking forward to the next instalment.

    You look a bit like the Kaiser with that moustache πŸ˜€ !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Delightful story, Geoff ( What’s new there). I have to admire your socks and hat as a statement. Your mustache is another matter. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dare I ask to see your socks……………. or the hat for that matter Geoff?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Losing the Plot says:

    Those socks though! I suppose if you got lost, the rescue teams could find you easier?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aren’t parents odd sometimes in how they have to follow the rules of society and forget they love their kids….. I’m glad your dad finally came round, though I expect your mum had a lot to do with it. Good on you for going on the first walk and all the rest – what an adventure! Personally I love the socks and am thinking of having a streak of that colour put into my hair again…….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Erika Kind says:

    They do! And you cannot get lost… lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. willowdot21 says:

    Fashion Police πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That animal living beneath your nose is a bit more eccentric than the socks, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is wonderful. True I suppose that the changing relationship is harder on the parent. Good to be reminded of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Not sure that the socks are the most worrying sartorial choice …

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mick Canning says:

    I cannot adequately express how brave I think you are to post that photo, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Mary Smith says:

    Great post. Looking forward to the next instalment. I can understand the Textiliste’s concern about the socks, but was she really okay with the moustache?

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Widdershins says:

    Those socks could only be improved if one of them was neon yellow! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  16. George says:

    A lovely story. Emotional obfuscation is a male artform but beautifully resolved here. An outcome as bright as the socks.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. restlessjo says:

    I’ll look forward to it, Geoff. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ A serial would be nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Walking With The Wind At My Back: Part Three | TanGental

  19. Lovely (and shrewd) observation about the parent being the one to change. I’m excited to hear more about the walk and reserving judgement about the socks. For the nonce.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Darlene says:

    I’m reading these backward but enjoying them. I’m ok with the socks and the mustache.

    Liked by 1 person

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