My dog is a in a very happy place at the moment. As I’m writing this, she’s curled around my legs next to me on the sofa doing a rather marvellous impression of a hot water bottle. But, I can tell from her twitching paws that she’s dreaming and in my head, she’s dreaming of walks in the countryside. But, even if she’s not, I certainly am.
If you read my previous feature, you’ll know that I moved house just before Christmas. I moved from a house on a busy busy road to a house that’s right on the edge of the Chiltern Hills. And I mean right on the edge. Turn left at the end of my little street and there you are – fields, woods and rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
So you can understand why my dog is feeling as if she’s had a life upgrade. Instead of walking next to roads where cars continually steam on by, she runs free and, to paraphrase the advert, she’s being more dog.
When we’re walking, we talk. We chat, we converse, we laugh and we have those deep and meaningful discussions that stay with you for a long time.
Since the move, during the Christmas holidays and on every weekend since, The Hottie and I don our wellies and stride off with the dawg, exploring and getting our bearings. We’re joining things up in our heads. We’re working out what leads where and what happens when we wander down particular paths together.
And yes, if you’re wondering, that paragraph above does indeed have a double meaning.
You see, when we’re walking, we talk. We chat, we converse, we laugh and we have those deep and meaningful discussions that stay with you for a long time. There’s something so freeing about being outside, on neutral territory, without all the things at home that clamour for your attention. There’s no wifi (there’s barely even signal sometimes), there’s no work, there’s no children and there’s no one but us.
But why am I quite so excited about this? Well, for someone who makes a living from words, I have been historically quite pants when it comes to talking. Give me a blank sheet of paper and a pen and the words pour forth. Put me in front of someone and ask me to talk to them about things that bother me or things that scare, worry or disturb me and I’m really not very good.
If you’re a psychologist or anything slightly similar, I can only imagine what you’re thinking about me right now but it’s fair to say that my baggage doesn’t weigh me down, instead it slaps a gag order on me. I live with my own super injunction.
Or, to be more accurate, I used to.
The Hottie has helped me find my voice. In so many ways. Since we’ve been together, I’ve talked about things and shared things I never thought I would. The stammer that I’d developed has disappeared and it’s because of our walks in the countryside.
When we’re talking, I know that he’s listening to me but because we’re walking, the pressure to speak is somehow lessened. I don’t feel as if my every syllable is being scrutinised in quite the same way and there’s definitely something freeing about being in the great outdoors.
So, as we’ve picked our way along the footpaths and bridleways of South Oxfordshire, I’ve also navigated my way out of some of the dead ends and cul de sacs that I’ve been lost in for years. It’s strange and brilliant in equal measure. It’s odd to think that all of the things that have held me back for so long have been solved by walking. Walking and talking with the best company – The Hottie, The Dawg and a map so that however we wander and whatever ground we cover, we always know where we are.
And how far we are from the pub.