“Mommy, I’m tired.” I am four years old and walking back from Grassington to the campsite in Appletreewick in the verdant Yorkshire Dales with my Mom, my hand holding hers. It is six miles away and I have already walked 6 miles there earlier that day. I reiterate, I am only four years old. My little legs are aching, I am so small and tired that I’m swaying as I walk, my ginger hair bobbing like a dandelion in the breeze, my eyes are blinking sleepily, taking in the rolling hills dotted with white sheep, my eyes close for a little longer this time, blackness, they open again and are greeted by the hills once more. My mom looks down at me sympathetically and squeezes my hand twice. She does this occasionally to let me know she’s thinking about me. I squeeze back.
“Close your eyes Jamie and sleep whilst you’re walking, I will guide you.” My wonderful mother holds my hand more firmly; ready to show me the way. I quickly resign to this, I know I am too heavy to carry now and that the only way back home is to walk. I close my eyes. The green hills give way to darkness and I can only hear now as I sway from side to side, my hair tickling my cheeks as it bobs, my moms hand guiding me through the fields, the sound of the river Wharfe tinkling away gently to my right side, twittering birds flying over head, lambs baying to their mothers. Blissful sounds and scents pass through me, soothing my aching legs, they are still working; as long as my legs are still working then everything is OK.
There is a slight rise in the path, but I do not falter, I have total faith in my mother, her grip tightens as she guides me, we must be navigating something difficult, I wonder what it is? I then feel her hand move forward a little in a surge and then at the last moment she pulls back. But before I stop naturally my four year old body jolts dead as it collides with an unmoveable object, I hear the crunch of my forehead jar against something firm followed by a dull pain. I open my eyes blinded by the light, they gradually adjust and I am confused by what I see. There is a dry stone wall in front of my face and I seemed to have walked into it, but how can that be, my mom is holding my hand.
I look up to her, at first her expression is blank, and then her eyes narrow to creases and her cheeks bulge, her mouth widens and her body begins to spasm. Although my head hurts I am firstly worried about my mother, she is convulsing now and her hand is held over her mouth, her breathing is erratic and interspersed by strange squeaks as she gasps for breath. The squeaks get louder and are now joined by grunts and shouts. Her eyes are so creased up that I can barely see them, tears are streaming from her eyes. I then I realise. I am generally not the sharpest tool in the box and at four years old was a little behind schedule. For a moment her convulsions lessen and her hand comes away from her mouth to reveal a broad grin, she caresses my forehead apologetically. There is a momentary pause; the sound of sheep baying comes back to my ears. And then it finally happens, my dear mother explodes with laughter, she is laughing at me, unable now to look me in the eye; unashamed raucous laughter, she holds her sides and doubles over bent should her ribs burst. She has just walked me into a dry stone wall for the fun of it. This is one of my earliest memories of cruel humour. I laughed my four year old ass off.
The six mile walk home suddenly became shorter after that moment. It soon became a game to see if I could catch my mom out from walking me into a wall again. I quickly became adept at this as I spied new targets ahead, but then she soon changed strategy and started walking me into trees and after that cow pat. It was fun all the way home.
This feeling of nostalgia hit me last week as we carved away at the National Railway Museum, and after that Morecambe Bay. The sculpting was great to do as always, but the very special thing was my time spent with one of my fellow sand sculptors. A very talented woman who stole the show with her sign writing at the museum. But for me it is the little bundle of life that is growing in her belly that is quite amazing, the way her body is changing seemingly every day to allow for it to grow and to nourish it. I am told that as a man I am so lucky because I can wee standing up, but I would say that having a child grow inside you takes the biscuit. Two hearts beating inside the same body. It’s a great time for her now, but also the future, all the moments that her and her child will spend together that will one day become fond memories. Perhaps she too will walk her child into walls for the fun of it.
Ps. A special congratulations to the Mexican Andy Moss for fulfilling a boyhood dream of tooting the horn of a real steam train. Andy has the actual model of the train he tooted at home.