Thursday 17 October 2013

In praise of dog walking

There is a certain field in Henley that is green and pleasant and beloved of local dog walkers. Being the proud, new owner of a Labrador puppy, I have recently joined the throng of walkers who frequent this common ground. During the course of a month, I have even made a few friends. It is our dogs who break the ice: after the requisite amount of bottom-sniffing, the owners get chatting.
Walking  the dog in a field
Simple pleasures

I am convinced that walking in the fresh air actually facilitates the gentle flow of thought and conversation. I am not just thinking of the horse trainer I met earlier in the week who told me she snapped her vertebrae breaking in a new colt, or even the many Labrador owners keen to impart advice, but also my children. Since Pickle the puppy arrived, our weekend walks as a family have become an unexpected way of learning more about our kids' secret lives. 

On any day after school, if I had attempted to pry into their affairs, I would have got the automatic brush-off. "Sorry Mummy - I've got to watch Scooby-Doo," or "Nothing happened today". Nothing, really? On a walk, however, there are no TVs, ipads or even homework to contend with. All we can do is walk and talk - what a revelation! Suddenly I am hearing about snippets from their day, friendship issues and even flirtations in the playground. 

On quieter days, as I range around the fields, circumventing the odd pile of dog poo, I am strangely reminded of William Blake's rousing poem, JerusalemFor centuries, all those feet in ancient time have been treading England's pleasant pastures green and perhaps - just like me - chewing over their day. It seems I have re-discovered a primal need to travel by foot. So bring me my collar of burning gold and my lead of desire: Pickle and I are off for a walk. 


"Emma is a talented story teller and very quickly you are drawn into the web she weaves. Her characters are extremely believable as they are flawed but very likeable." 

-- Annabel at CountryWives 18 July, 2013

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