One of my friends is married to a man who loves the outdoors. I’m not sure if he was the first to come up with this statement, but it was via him (and her) that I first heard it.
Personally, my own love of the outdoors was a slow burner.
My parents are not what you would call outdoorsy people. The only kind of outdoors my dad was keen on was a beer garden, and my mother is the sort of person who wraps herself up in winter clothing if the temperature falls below 25 degrees celsius and the sun goes behind a cloud for more than a few minutes, wailing that a light drizzle means we are all destined to spend the next twenty-four hours trapped inside rubbing our gloved hands together by the fire, watching the weather for signs of improvement lest we be swept away by a raging torrent on the way to the Co-Op.
As a result, I was in my late twenties before I even possessed a pair of shoes that could withstand walking across a garden lawn in good weather, let alone the vaguely muddy result of the month of January on our local woodland.
But I can happily say that I am now a convert to the outdoors life.
It started with Iceland.
I had wanted to visit Iceland ever since 1994, after spending six Geography lessons in a row doing nothing but watching hours and hours of grainy video footage of the island of Heimaey, off the coast of Iceland, enduring a particularly slow-moving and tedious lava flow. It was at once both a piece of brilliantly lazy lesson planning on the part of our teacher (just pop the video on, and hope for a quiet life-a lesson I popped into my teacher toolkit to revive years later) and bizarrely effective in terms of securing a lifelong fascination with volcanoes that led to me visiting Iceland, poking some real lava flows (mercifully cooled down) and attending a screening of further grainy volcano footage from days of yore in a tiny cinema.
Although there weren’t any volcanoes actually erupting at the time of my visit, one thing I did learn from my trip to Iceland was that a pair of gladiator sandals were perhaps not the best choice of footwear for hiking across all that volcanic terrain, and I was forced to spend a day in Vik, a coastal town with one shop-an emporium of randomness that sold everything from kitchenware to Christmas decorations (in the middle of August) looking for a pair of hiking boots.
Incredibly, I found my hiking boots, and I kid you not, they were game changers. Suddenly, I could walk wherever I chose, in complete comfort. I could hike up glaciers and jagged rocks. I could traverse sandy beaches and muddy woodland paths. I could do anything, with my own two feet, battered as they were from years of teetering heels, and all in the warmth and comfort of a nice woolly sock. It was true. There was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. All those times I had cursed England’s green and rolling hills and charmingly cobbled pavements for not being suitably evenly paved for my six inch platforms, and all along there was a whole new world of comfort and joy out there, just waiting to be explored.
I cannot say I am always an adventurer. I do still enjoy my high heels and the trappings of relative urban comfort, but as I have got older I have gained a new appreciation of the countryside and its joys, and with that has come the desire to share that adventurous spirit with Piglet, come whatever weather it chooses to spring on us.
And so this weekend I took it upon myself to spend the dying days of the summer holidays walking around in the rain.
I love a bit of walking around in the rain. The fact that there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, and that conversely, good clothing existed which kept the rain off one’s person to a reasonable extent, was a revelation to me. I could go out, I could walk around, and no longer would I end up hobbling as the skin on my heels peeled away and my feet contorted into increasingly awkward shapes to avoid the relentless rubbing. No longer would I wade miserably through puddles as the sodden hems of my trousers slapped against the backs of my legs. I was free. Free from the constraints of trying to look good and ending up looking like an unprepared idiot. Now I was going to show Piglet how it was done. We were going off on an adventure.
“We’re going off on an adventure Piglet!” I cried happily. “The woods are our oyster!”
Piglet’s lack of response quickly told me he had fallen asleep under the comforting plastic of the pushchair’s rain cover. Clearly this was not the action of a child who found bad weather unsettling and likely to give him a cold, as my mother had claimed.
On we plodded, up hill and down dale, passing soggy dogs and their plastic poncho clad owners. Passive aggressive texts from my mother questioning the wisdom of walking in the rain with a toddler (“what if he catches pneumonia?”) were ignored.
Eventually Piglet woke up, the sun came out, and we played in a park sandpit, grubby but happy in our wellies and waterproofs.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing*, and I hope that Piglet remembers that.
*OK so a hurricane might be a bit much even for the hardiest of North Face jackets, but let’s assume we’re talking normal conditions, not some kind of deadly Weather Apocalypse like in that episode of Chuggington where the storm simulator goes crazy.