Knock Yourself Out

It might be cold but the sky is blue and the sun is out and casting long winter shadows over the landscape. This is the weather for walking, and on Thursday afternoon I bunked off and went for a walk and a talk with my sister.

The sister never leaves home without her penknife. I never leave home without a lipstick. She is academically gifted but once put her finger in the blender and switched it on to see if it was working. I was on the floor convulsing with laughter and incapable. She was making a cake at the time. Her solution to this mishap was to put a sign in front of said cake that read “not suitable for vegetarians”. I would not have thought of this.

Our walk offers a huge variety in landscape and terrain. The sister thinks that this affords me the ideal opportunity to see what a long cane has to offer. I have tried to explain that it’s not designed for cross country. She has never come to terms with the reasons why a long cane cannot offer you a suitable form of mobility in the undergrowth. I have just never really got my head around the long cane full stop. I know I don’t make as much use of it as I know would be helpful but the under growth is a suggestion to far. She cannot see the point of any aid to mobility that cannot take on brambles and quagmires because this is where she tends to walk. I like to know the pavement below my feet is solid because that’s where I tend to walk.

I do make a concession to the glare that the low slung sun causes and by which means the world in front of me can vanish, stabbed out by needle points of light rays. I wear ski glasses and a trilby.

We set off well enough and occasionally the sister will helpfully tell me that we are coming to a nice flat piece of ground. More frequently she says, “Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that tree root and the huge pool of muddy slush that has just made its way into your shoe”. That’s the problem with having a good intellect. You cannot have your mind on higher things and be down in the dirt with your relatives at the same time.

Sometimes she holds back a branch or a bramble and then lets it go just before I have cleared it. Very occasionally, she offers helpful narration on the wildlife, which she is extremely good at. She once forgot to mention a deer fence that I marched into at throat height. The convulsions that followed must have had more of an impact on her than me because she has never done that again. She will always say when we are at the fence. Then, as we tumble out of woodland onto the side of a windswept hill, and as I am pulling my hat down low and the jacket zip up high, she sometimes says, “we’re out of the wood and at the top of the hill. The wind is blowing.”

I am ashamed then to say that Thursday’s brush with a tree was not of her making but mine and that the learning point for me was that I might be just as hooked by my phone as the next Joanna. At the precise moment she ducked below a branch, I lowered my head as I took my phone out of my bag. The brim of my hat obscured the tree branch and bang. I could see stars and felt my neck go crunch.

As I was thinking about the £60 physio charge I was about to incur, I heard the sister say, “oh yes, there’s a tree branch”. The moral dilemma was whether to take responsibility or blame the sister. I’d like to say that I didn’t hesitate in doing the right thing, but I did, just for a split second.

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