Thursday, 2 June 2011

Age 7, 27 or 278. Of no consequence.

Walking with twitchers again. Through woodland, across heath, by lake, round Stockgrove.

When we assemble, the group leader glances at us, sideways, as if he wonders why. Not surprising. The average age on some of these bird walks is 132. Mine are the only kids here today, although it's a half-term.

But the twitchers give us the benefit, even though I bet they've sussed me out. They can see I don't tag along here to swoon over widgeons. The way I can't tell the song of a robin from the song of a thrush? How I always forget to carry the binoculars?

An elderly gentleman, feeling sorry at the sight of us squinting at a tree in the distance, offers us his pricey roof prisms. While we argue over how you mess up the focus, he quietly slips on his spectacles.

He probably sees that I come because the kids enjoy spotting wildlife and I enjoy the walk; Tiger and Squirrel get all excited between the difference of a woodpecker and a woodpigeon, and I am all look at the earth!

Anyway, age aside, I have stranger id compulsions. I simply must tread here. On tracks, foot printed by hundreds of walkers gone before me. I must add to their record and press down on this soil and sandy page my size sixes too.

And look at the view! I travelled thousands of miles for sights like this, to stare at England's curves and folds, and revel in those greens.

Strangely, barely a word is spoken on this walk. The old man quietly passes us his binoculars, everyone waits for the elderly lady at the back to catch up, and the leader doesn't talk much; he simply takes us through the woods and leads us out again. That's enough for me given my motives for joining in, although the kids are a little frustrated by his lack of explanation. They would have liked him to share more of his knowledge about the secret lives of chaffinch and bluetit.

Well, two of the kids say that. The third is on a lake learning how to handle sail and rope.

Coincidentally, I have a conversation with Shark's watery instructor at the day's end. He enthuses about Shark's aquatic inclinations, and expresses bemusement that she listens to him; she pays attention whenever he explains about knots and winds.

I expect she will, I answer, puzzled. Why shouldn't she? Because I'm an old man, he says with a diffident smile. He adds, he's sailed for years, and the kids think he can't know what it's like when you're young.

Now it's my turn to feel bemused. I am a terrible judge of age. He's 55? 60? 78? Who cares? What's more important is the thought he brings to what he says and does, and I assume that's what Shark knows too. I don't say that. The last thing I want is for him to think I'm being trite or patronising, and to receive a hard stare in reward.

But of course it sets me thinking about age and youth, and I'm wondering whether my kids are odd.

Maybe they are. They don't seem to care whether you're young or old. I'll tell myself it's because Shark, Squirrel and Tiger mix in different age groups every day. They listen to people, whatever their years, if they're interesting and know stuff. Sometimes we can hear that older people know more stuff, and sometimes that makes them more interesting.

And from my point of view, they know downright important stuff. Like how to edge round the gales, and how to get out of the woods.


Nora said...

You must be very proud of your girls.

Rachel M. said...

I think it's wonderful and your girls are great for an adult to talk to. They actually interact! I know other 11 year old's who cannot hold a conversation with an adult.

Belgravia Wife - sort of said...

This is lovely, curves and folds - very well said. I too know 11 year olds than can barely engage in a meaningful way with another human being. Looks like a sensational day x

Grit said...

hi people, thank you for your comments! i'm coming round to your places now.

MadameSmokinGun said...

Greens, greens and more greens. There are so many greens. I am appreciating the greens more and more these days. Dangerous while driving but hey... I like the difference between looking at greens from the car as a driver, as a passenger, from on foot and from a bike. No idea if the small people are anywhere near as appreciative but it must be a better view than the back of someone's nitty head in cramped classroom eh?