Going Nowhere Slowly

14/08/2014 16:55 | Updated 22 May 2015


"I don't want to take my scooter, I want to walk." Now those are words to strike terror into my heart.

"No, scooting is much more fun than walking," I say breezily, picking up his scooter and swinging it back and forth. "Much more fun."

It certainly is. If my five-year-old wants to walk anywhere, we have to plan in about an hour and a half's contingency time. In fact, I am not sure that, technically, it can be called walking.

It is slower than a meander, less purposeful than a wander and significantly more irritating than an amble.

We may set out with good intentions, with me carefully explaining that the library shuts soon (a big fat lie, obviously) so we must not dawdle, stop or be otherwise distracted. But that boy could be distracted by a dust particle if the mood takes him.

We set off on foot, after only minor delays involving setting up his dinosaurs in battle formation on the kitchen table and him showing me his highest jump. Twice.

"Look, mummy!" he cries, squatting on his haunches and staring intently at the ground. I am already 10 feet ahead. "Yes, that's lovely. Now come on."

"No, you can't see from there."

He's right I can't see from here, I have my eyes closed in frustration at the fact he just needs to get a move on.

"Come on, please."

"Just look."

I retrace my steps. Retracing my steps is not a good thing. In the war of the walks, it is nigh on admitting defeat. We have progressed so little that I can still see our house and I fleetingly think of aborting the trip and going home.

I look at where he is staring.

"Look, an ant, mummy."

"Oh yes."

What must it be like to be so unbothered by the passing of tine, by the looming of deadlines?

There he was, studying the scurrying dance of an ant, his head no doubt filled with nothing other than pressing ant-shaped questions: where is it going? Where has it been? What is its name? Does it have a face?

And yet there I was, my head filled with nothing other than pressing questions about stuff that needs to be accomplished: will we get to the library before it gets busy? Will we have time to get to Tesco? Will I remember to get bread?

He is having fun, exploring whatever takes his fancy. I, meanwhile, am just having palpitations.

We walk for a short while. Perhaps five or six steps. And then he stops again. I plead through gritted teeth for him to get a move on, and he assures me that he will only be a second, he just wants to collect these stones. I turn around to see that he is stood in the middle of someone's gravel drive.

I wonder if I lay down in the middle of the pavement and sobbed quietly, anyone would mind?

Eventually, as the last dribble of sanity leaks from me, we restart our walk, his pockets bulging with a part of the neighbour's driveway.

A pigeon lands on the pavement in front of us, and with a delighted laugh, he chases the startled bird, which flies off in the direction we are heading. What a result. I watch my son run down the road, eating up the yards. I follow with glee but my happiness is inevitably short lived as the pigeon, still skittering from pavement to sky, does a complete u-turn, causing him to retrace most of his steps. Bugger.

The pigeon having finally escaped, I am left with the task of restarting our walk. My son, on the other hand, has tasked himself with picking every berry from a bush in someone's front garden.

A tectonic plate could get to the library faster than my son.

This must be what life is like when you have no sense of time. Why would picking berries from a bush not be the best activity you could possibly engage with? All thoughts of the library have been banished, because there are shiny red things to be plucked and collected.

How long would he actually stand there, picking berries? I have a terrible notion that the answer is until the bush is stripped of every last one, but I am not standing here any longer to find out. I casually mention chocolate buttons.

Bingo. Reluctantly, he moves away from the bush, before stopping in front of a nearby drain and kneeling down.

"What are you doing?" I ask, trying to sound relaxed despite the fact I am grinding my teeth so hard my gums are hurting. We are not even half way there and it seems we have been out for hours.

"Just posting the berries." I watch as he painstakingly drops one berry at a time through the hole in the drain cover. My head might explode with the stress of our un-progress. Could I live my life like him, I wonder, as he drops another berry down the drain.

Could I marvel at every passing feather, cloud or worm? Could I spend as long as I like doing the things I like? No, of course I couldn't. That's just madness. I would be jobless, homeless and probably husbandless within the month.

So I probably should let him enjoy it, this utter lack of preoccupation with time, whilst he can. But maybe just not today, I have got too much to do.

And so we continue our walk, excruciatingly slowly. And with every step of progress we make, a persistent thought nags at me. With every metre we move toward the library, a cold sense of dread settles on me. We've got to walk all the way home yet. I stifle a small sob and take another step forward.

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