I’ve always thought American author Mark Twain was spot on when he stated: “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Now, at the risk of incurring the fury of, oh, about eight million crazy canine people, I’m going a step further and declaring that taking a dog ruins it even more.
I chat to a fellow greyhound owner who tells me he can’t understand people who go walking without a dog. Really? I ponder what’s not to understand about wanting to walk in a straight line, at a consistent pace, without stopping at every lamp post and grit bin to watch another creature have a wee. I try to spot what’s fun about ambling along – until, that is, a small dog / cat / squirrel pops into view and said ambler turns instantly into a snarling Baskerville type, onto which I have to hang for dear life whilst waving my apologies to passers by. Nope, I’m still not getting it.
My new trails book sits with the publisher, waiting for the weather to warm up for a timely spring launch. During the (long, overdue) writing of it, I realised several things:
Children are a good walk spoiled (this is unfortunate, as it’s a children’s trails book)
Carrying a heavy camera and a hefty collection of notebooks and pens is a good walk spoiled
Stopping every 300 yards to take photos and scribble notes, usually under a determined Welsh rain, is a good walk spoiled
Perhaps I have the wrong job
I looked forward, gleefully, to submitting the book, ditching the kids and heading to the hills for a long, brisk hike carrying nothing but my waterproofs and a family pack of Mars Bars.
Then I adopt Lionel.
Lionel is gorgeous. He’s enormous, with a sleek coat, liquid brown eyes and an unlimited supply of utter devotion. And, for a racing machine capable (allegedly) of speeds of up to 45mph, he is the worst walker in the world.
An old friend visits and we soon get onto walking. We rashly plan a summer trip, perhaps involving testing our nerve on Crib Goch or hiking a section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. I’m thinking 10 or 12 miles a day, linked by a string of cwtchy B&Bs and carb-loaded pub lunches.
Too late, I remember that the friend is ex-Army and has led expeditions in Canada and Norway. He’s saying things like “20 miles a day” and “carrying tents on our backs”. I look at Lionel, who I was planning to leave behind. Hmm. He might just have to come along after all. Because, to me, 20 miles a day does sound a bit like a good walk spoiled.