The boy who couldn’t keep up
Fifty or so years ago, a little boy used to ride often along the lanes in a seat on the back of his father’s bicycle. Legs grew longer, the boy learned to ride a bike – and then came the problem of being the one at the back trying to keep up. The same thing happened initially with long walks in the countryside – younger legs meant that longer walks were a challenge. I know, because the boy was me. My father had a solution to the problem, and it found its way into the opening chapter of Journey: the way of the disciple:
In his youth my father was a very keen walker, travelling great distances between youth hostels with his canvas knapsack on his back. Years later, when my brother and I came along, he was still keen to walk. With our much shorter legs we often found it hard to keep up. What was a pleasant stroll to him often felt like more of a route march to us, and I frequently struggled at the back. Realizing this, he took me on one side and explained that the secret to enjoying a long walk was not to concentrate on the distance, but on the contents. In other words, it was better to savour the sights and sounds as you passed through, rather than spending the whole journey thinking about its end. In this way, the miles passed more quickly and the journey was a whole lot more pleasant. It is in such a spirit that I write the following chapters.
My father died on Sunday. His long legs will never step out on a country walk again, camera clasped in hand. Two days after his death, I received the final cover design for the book, which you can see below. I love Glen Morris’ bold figure – leaning into the wind and striding off the page towards the reader. I like to think that Dad, legs itching for another walk and a photographer’s eye for composition, would have loved it too.