Friday, 30 December 2011

The Grand Junction Arms (Bulborne) to Tring Reservoirs and back.

In which rain stops play at Tring Reservoirs and I retrace my steps, play around with our new camera and list 18 things I learnt this year. Why 18? Whyever not?

Ordnance Survey Map: 181 (Chiltern Hills North)

Distance: 2 miles (?)
Time: Hardly anything
Rating: Easy Walk

Well, it's that time of year where we all start looking back and going 'ooo'. All in all - and to offer up a massive understatement - this has been a busy year. I hope next has a little bit more money and a lot more sleep in it. As the gear-up for Christmas began, I started to do a lot of thinking about this time last year. Mostly, my thoughts have been a deep and sincere gratitude that I am not heavily pregnant, and that I live in an age where acquiring the state of heavy pregnancy is one of choice. There is nothing like having a baby to teach you the joy of contraception.

The Grand Junction Arms, Bulborne

Today's walk wasn't quite what I intended. I had a plan for a circular walk, but it started to rain and, even with a brolly, I was worried about the coldness of the Chap's toes, so I decided to play it safe and head back. It was at least nice to have left the house, seeing as over the past few days I have thrown food into my mouth with gay abandon without too much exercise to counteract it. I don't think I can count Christmas cake as one of my five-a-day, and I'm pretty sure that eating it for breakfast is not wholly to be encouraged.

Cakey Breakfast of Champions dealt with, I started at The Grand Junction Arms in Bulborne, with every intention of stopping at the end of the walk for a cuppa, but seeing as I called the walk off early and they don't open til 12, my cuppa was missed and I opted to go home and prepare the Chap a sausage sandwich instead.

The Grand Junction arms is - unsurprisingly, from the name - right on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal. On towpath with my back to the pub, I turned left and headed along the tarmaced road - this is a fantastic walk if you have a pram. Come the summer I have every intention of starting in Marsworth, walking here for lunch along the canal and then walking back. Today wasn't a day for that, really. All grey and miserable, rather.

On this day last year, I was round my friend's house being fed a large and delicious Thai curry in an attempt to encourage my son to vacate the premises. He wasn't late, you understand, but I felt a few hints wouldn't go amiss; frankly, I'd had enough of him where he was.

So, on the whole, things I have learnt this year:

1) Childbirth is really not as bad as people make it out to be. Or at least, it wasn't for me.
2) Sleep deprivation really is torture- people aren't making that one up.
3) Between the hours of midnight and 5am, and foodstuff available is liable to fall into your mouth.
4) I have reached the point in my life where poor service (notably from the NHS & Ikea this year) not only annoys me, but annoys me to the point of shirty letters. I have become that sort of a Bear.


5) Whisper this one quietly - for me, I think if I had another baby, I would probably skip the whole farrago with endless industrial milking machines and nipple shields and whathaveyou and just go straight to formula feeding. The people who can do it often seem mystified and I regularly got the response 'oof, when I got going I could have fed the whole street'. To those people, I can only shake like a veteran from 'Nam and intone "You weren't there, man. You weren't there..."
6) I married the right person. This is encouraging to have reconfirmed after 6 years and a baby.
7) Much love to the baby-friendly matinee at The Rex cinema in Berkhamsted, without which I would not have been able to enjoy The King's Speech, Win-Win, Potiche and Jane Eyre (that being said, Win-Win had an amusing trailer, but was best avoided).
8) Spending your Christmas money on a new camera means you will end up playing with the settings and taking extreme close-ups of plastic dinosaurs.

I was very excited by our new camera, actually. I didn't choose it, but it has brilliant automatic focus setting that makes the whole thing a point and press job, which is excellent if you're me and lazy.

Lock 44, The Grand Union Canal.
It's a pleasant, easy walk along the canal - I passed a number of locks which are part of a section I am sure are called The Marsworth Steps, but I can't find any evidence of this online. Anyway, I passed five locks in a really short space of time, which shows it's quite an up bit, even though the walk is pretty flat.

In a short while you reach the junction after which the pub is named - do not take the left hand turn towards Wendover, but instead go straight on over the humpty-backty bridge to head towards Tring Reservoirs.

More things I have learnt this year:

9) Learning my limits, and how to ask for help. It is hard to admit that you are not the Lord God Almighty, particularly if you're an only child. And particularly if you're British - we really do have that whole stiff-upper-lip thing going on. However, there is much to be said for throwing your hands up in the air and saying "Can someone help me with this?" before you hit your limits.
10) It's a really good idea to man up and go to therapy. Really, it's been brilliant. Again with that stiff-upper-lip thing - all this emoting. All this carrying on. One might as well be Californian. I thought you had to be a) mad, b) self-indulgent or c) both to go to therapy, but I was talking tosh. I wish I had gone years ago, it would have saved a lot of trouble.
11) I have revoked the Johnny Depp Clause in my marriage. I had previously asserted that should Johnny Depp turn up in Buckinghamshire and present himself at my door (which of course we all admit is highly likely), I reserved the right to reconsider my choices. Given the option now, however, I don't think I need to. My husband is my Pikachu - I choose him over all others. Where were you at 4am on various February nights this year, Mr Depp? Hmm? Where were you? Not letting me go back to bed for a sleep, I can tell you.

You eventually appear out by Tring Reservoirs, which look bleak and forbidding this time of year. I don't know about water, but should there be exposed mud at this time of year? Shouldn't reservoirs be full this time of year? Whatever it was, there were quite a few mud flats and birds with muddy legs wading through them.

When the path leads, turn left between the two reservoirs and past a group of fisherman, one of whom was complaining loudly that all he had caught today were two bird's nests.

Just as I reached the end of the path and was heading towards the road, it started to rain heavily. I had my umbrella (which I much prefer to faffing round with a rainhood on a pram. I'm not very spatially aware, so by the time I've fitted the damn thing the rain has usually stopped, or the Chap is complaining vociferously), but even so I was worried about the rattly cough the Chap has and the current situation of his cold little toeses, so I chose to turn round and head back, which was a bit disappointing, but I don't want him ill.

Last bit of the things I have learnt this year:

12) When organising a road trip through France, and when planning your first day's driving that you need to remember to include the time it will take you to get to the ferry in your total for driving hours of the day. Also, France, you have many good and noble qualities, but the signage in your towns needs some work. I have a radical proposition for you - how's about putting the signs before you get to the junctions rather than at them? Much easier to get in the right lane then...
13)A good health visitor is worth their weight in gold. Fortunately, we have one who has her head screwed on and has given very sensible advice, particularly about weaning (which was winding me right up).
14) Slings - they're a really good idea. I like walking, and baby carriers let you go wherever you like.
15) Also, sling meets are full of people who are still reading books and come out with sentences such as 'I can fit into my My Little Pony t-shirts again!', and 'I am sure it was reading Meg & Mog as a child that directly resulted in my later becoming a goth'. Such sentences make me happy, so sling meets for the win, I say.
16) There is a rule for life one needs to abide to, and it is this - when one has been out drinking and one hears Bon Jovi's classic, Livin' on a Prayer, you may use it as a litmus paper for whether or not you may return to the bar. If you do not attempt the key change, all is well and you may continue drinking. If you attempt the key change, you have probably had enough and should not accept any more. Finally - and this is very important - if you attempt the key change and think you did it really well, then that is the moment you should have a pint of water and head home to your bed for more water and a vitamin C.
17) Christmas is way more fun when you have toys to play with :)
18) There seems to be no limit to the number of photos you can take of your child. Whatever they do is clearly the cutest thing that has ever been done. All those other people thinking their baby is the best? Deluded fools! They can't smear yoghurt over themselves the way your baby can!

So yes, those are the things I learnt this year. There are more, like how to put a nappy on properly, or what to say when you find yourself in a baby group next to a powerfully ugly child, or why proper bras are integral to my self esteem, and what stitches feel like when the don't dissolve, and how to stop a child from choking, and how to stay awake at night when all you want to do is sleep, but these are the ones I've put here, and I don't want to go on all day.

So, the conclusion at the end of almost a year of motherhood? It's all right. It really is fine. I quite like it, although some more sleep would be nice. I'd rather have him than not, certainly. As my husband has been heard to say - he's a good bloke, that baby.

Happy New Year!


  1. 1) Clearly the world's cutest baby. No argument.
    2) His grandmother has taken more photographs of THE CHAP in the last twelve months than she has taken photographs in the last sixty years.

  2. I believe it right and proper that you should pop up to comment on the cuteness of your grandson at the bottom of this post, yet maintain a dignified silence regarding last week's finger-waving about pubic hair. Tis the natural order of things, I feel :D