Grandpa Webb's blog

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The long and winding road to Marks and Spencer

Who is this Grandpa Webb?Walking is good for you. Research has shown that children who walk or cycle to school have higher concentration levels than those delivered to the door. My granddaughters’ school even hands out badges to kids who walk to school.

I’m not sure how this converts to those of pensionable age, but the gym at the posh hotel up the road, where grandma and I belong, does morning walks. These consist of a leisurely three mile wander though the woods and along the canal towpath, returning to the juice bar about an hour later for a free orange juice. I suppose the juice is in lieu of a badge.

Every now and then they offer a more serious walk. About seven miles we thought. Keen to get fit, we signed up for one.

We all started by power walking out of the hotel grounds and into a tricky stretch of woodland that involved detours to avoid flooding and a climb up a steep hill before descending to the canal towpath. At least the next bit would be flat, we thought.

The towpath was turning out to be a lot longer than we thought…Our trainer, and leader of the pack of nine women and me, kept up a brisk pace. Two of the younger ones, in cropped joggers and obviously of Olympic standard, were way out in front. Grandma and me were at the back of the pack but in the early stages we had enough surplus energy to exchange greetings with the lucky people on barges who were moored up and just finishing their full English breakfast.

As the walk progressed, our surplus energy evaporated and we ignored the barge people. The towpath stretch was turning out to be a lot longer than we thought. However, after a period of grim silent walking we found ourselves at a bridge and a lock with a small refreshment kiosk alongside, where the party halted.

I thought we were stopping for elevenses – tea and buns or something similar – but it turns out the regulars stop here because just across the bridge is a Tesco with quite decent loos for those wanting a comfort break.

All grandma and I wanted was a break. I sank down at a picnic table and asked grandma what she would like. “I’ll have a hot chocolate and share a toasted teacake with you,” she gasped. I ordered two hot chocolates, two toasted teacakes and – one of my favourites – a slice of bread pudding.   

When I returned to the picnic table with this lot, there were horrified looks from those who had opted for a small skinny orange juice. “Anybody fancy a piece of bread pudding?” I offered. They didn’t exactly get out the garlic, but I know how Dracula felt when he accidentally flashed his teeth in polite company. “No thank you!” they all said.

Journey’s end for us: luckily they do sell quite good chocolate biscuits As I worked through the toasted teacake and bread pudding, I received two pieces of disturbing news. Grandma’s knee was aching and unlikely to go much further, and we had about another seven miles to go until we reached the half way stage.

Before we could break the news of grandma’s dodgy knee to our leader, everybody scrambled up and headed off to Tesco. When we finally caught up with her she said she’d changed the route and we would now be heading back another way – perhaps only another eight miles or so. Our leader, it seemed, had reconnoitred the route on her mountain bike and had over-estimated the distance on foot. “I do ride quite fast,” she said by way of explanation.

Feeling wimps, we turned away. The nearest taxi rank was at the station, up the hill. “I can’t walk that far,” grandma said. We hobbled across a ring road to a Marks and Spencer food store. I called our daughter Sarah. “We’re marooned at Marks and Spencer without a car, can you help?” Sarah arrived with a set of wheels 20 minutes later. In the back the granddaughters were in a great state of excitement: “Is this a real, proper, emergency?” asked the eight-year old. “It certainly is,” said grandma.

This was the first, and hopefully the last, time we will walk seven miles to Marks and Spencer. It has given rise to a new saying in our house: “Let’s go to Marks and Spencer. Shall we take the car -- or do you want to walk?” 

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