Friday, 6 January 2012

Pitstone Windmill to the Base of Pitstone Hill Total Ramble Fail

In which I don't manage to walk anywhere of note, but do manage to think about attitudes to toys and parenting gurus. And get very, very wet.

Ordnance Survey: Explorer 181
Time: 20 mins
Distance: Enough to get soaked in.

Rating: Rubbish

It's a new year and the weather has been atrocious. I had planned to have another crack at a Totternhoe Knoll this week, but the day I had set aside for it was lost to a migraine, and all I could do was lie in bed, whimper and occasionally vomit. Fortunately the ChapDad was home early and I was able to just get on with being ill in my bed rather than be ill and try to deal with a baby.

So, filled with... no, I wasn't filled with anything. Filled with can't be arsed-ness is what I have been filled with, but I set out anyway in an attempt to do a variation on the Pitstone Windmill to Tring theme, this time going via the Grand Junction arms.

Following the same directions as when I did this the last time, I set off across the old quarry, which was looking pleasant.

I felt that, while I might currently prefer hiding under a duvet, in about 15 minutes or so I might think this was a good idea. Oh, the folly...

Our house feels like it is groaning under the weight of new toys post-Christmas, and what with the Chap's first birthday on the horizon, more could well be on the way. Yet, as I found myself starting a Toy Rotation System, I found myself having an odd thought on the subject of toys.

I have discovered that I appear to be a Toy Puritan. I appear to feel that all the child should have is a wooden spoon, a saucepan and a cardboard box and to have anything else is an appalling frivolity on my part.

I crossed the stile and walked up the wooded path, unlike in the original Pitstone Windmill to Tring walk when I walked up the road. I was surprised when rain started falling from what appeared to be a clear sky, but by this time the Chap had fallen asleep and his hood was up, he was wrapped in many layers of clothing and protected from the weather, so I thought, hey ho, the sky is clear, it'll stop in a few minutes. Oh, the folly...
Oddly enough, it seems that toys is another,inexplicable area in which you can feel you are Doing It All Wrong. My friend Nigella has got a lot more toys for her son than I have for mine. Yet she feels that maybe she doesn't have enough; maybe her son needs more stimulation. I, on the other hand, feel that we have too many toys - I don't feel that the Chap is overstimulated, I just feel he seems to have more fun with boxes and so forth. As I type, he is currently driving the plastic pod steriliser around the kitchen floor. I put cars out for this purpose, but they don't have an interesting handle on the top or clips down the side, so the steriliser it is. And I'm not being sniffy about my friend who has more toys, that's not it. The point I'm heading towards is that we both feel that somehow, we're not quite hitting the mark.

There is so much a being a parent that appears to be judged and scrutinised, but to make it worse you suddenly turn around to find you have these Ideas from somewhere. Ideas of the Ways It Should Be Done, which is a fearsome concept. But the weird thing is, I don't know where I get these ideas from, because I have never read a parenting book. They make me feel uncomfortable, somehow.I distrust anyone who pops up with claims that they can solve all your problems. I distrust the way 'parent' has become a verb, and the way but doing so it has become something to which it has become a concept of something you are doing constructively. Actually, I lie - I did start to read a Baby Whisperer book, and when on the second page I hit the term 'accidental parenting', I dropped it like a hot brick.  It smacks of micro-management to me. Hogg, Sears, Ford, the lot of 'em. They set about the creating The Other, in which you identify yourself by what you are not. I know these books and ideas are very popular, and I know a lot of people use them and they must really work for them, but all I see when you start talking about the gurus is a lot of judgement about how you're doing it all wrong. Or how I'm doing it all wrong, really. I guess it would have been nice when we were doing baby led weaning to have had some accepted guru to say 'Ah-ha, well, Gina says' every time someone said "Have you tried puree?" to me (yes, I have, he won't eat it, that's why we're doing baby led. Yes, I have tried giving him a spoon of his own. Yes, I have tried having a spoon each.). So I don't know what anyone says about toys. There are probably people who do believe wholeheartedly that anything more than a wooden spoon and a box is the crushing of imagination, and there are probably people out there who think you can never have enough toys. In the end, I have concluded that the right amount of toys is one that you can comfortably fit in your house.

As you probably have guessed, the rain did not stop. I thought I was still walking into sunshine. I turned, and the Uncle Monty line from Withnail and I crept into my head - The sky is beginning to bruise, and we shall be forced to camp. Actually, it was beyond beginning. The sky behind me was an evil purple-grey, and I had no umbrella. I thought about trying to make it to the Grand Junction Arms, but I was pretty sure that if I got that far I would be stuck in the rain, without any buses that pass by to get me back to the start. I gave up and headed back.

The Ivinghoe Beacon disappearing in the murk.

It was not pleasant. I went to University on the Welsh coast, so I have been familiar with horizontal freezing rain, but the wind that came with it - my God, it's not surprising they put a windmill here.

I considered stopping to get the plastic-backed travel change mat out of my bag to hold over the Chap, but on closer inspection he was fine - the weather hood was soaked through, but his handsome bobble hat was keeping the wet cloth off his face, and the rest of him was pretty well protected by the sling. I, however, was a drowned rat, even having to take off my glasses because thy had go so wet I couldn't see for drops of water. I marched back, and once firmly back in the house, the Chap decided to wake up, look at me and, tactfully, laugh.

My drowned rat look. Nice.

Things I Learnt

  • This time of year does not appear suitable for walking.
  • No, really, do pack an umbrella. I know the sun is shining. Remember which country you're living in...
  • You can always rely on your children to laugh heartily at you.


  1. This looks absolutely perfect. All these tinny details are made with lot of background knowledge. I like it a lot. This was a useful post and I think it is rather easy to see from the other comments as well that this post is well written and useful.

  2. Please stop naming your friends after my fantasies. It's confusing.

  3. brilliant.......I learnt through my first born that basically you buy toys for other peoples children who visit your house!

    Beautiful photos. All inspired to start walking again I have me mandu ca ca ca ca ca ca ca ca

  4. They never want their own stuff, do they? The Chap's favourite toy, the one he picks out of the cupboard every time, is a metal jam funnel; I suppose it is the thrill of the illicit. That and the fact it makes a fine noise when bashed on the kitchen floor tiles!

    And thank you for your kind words, Hummel. Hopefully I will be able to do a proper walk next week, so I don't have to write about running home in the rain!

  5. I'm with you on the fewer toys the better. Unfortunately my family aren't and I am the bad Mother who sends lots of toys to the charity shop...not that you would believe this if you ever came to my house based on all of the toy stuff that we have. Books on the other hand, one can never have enough ;)