Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Great Walk

There is a saying in Northern China,
(Bù dào chángchéng fēi hao hàn).


One who fails to reach the Great Wall cannot be called a man; you should not give up until you succeed; be determined to reach one's goal, not stopping half way.

It was November 2008 shortly after the Beijing Olympics when I  had stopped  atop the Great Wall, standing on tiptoe on Day 1 of a seven day trek across the northern parts of the Wall.   

I fancied I could see Mum and Dad’s bungalow in South Derry from here, both sitting out on the bench by the porch in the evening shade.

I cupped my hands and shouted ‘Mum, Mum, I can see you from here” 

Walls were always for climbing, as my Dad used to guide us with his anchored arms whenever we walked out on Sunday up the Curran road and down the woods.  
There were always walls for young boys with unguarded knees.

I fancied I heard her shouting, her voice carried by the early morning Beijing breeze (fēng ).  “Get down from there son, you’ll fall.  Come on over and I‘ll put the kettle on. “
In reality I couldn’t see the bungalow.  I couldn’t see Mum or Dad either.  I would never speak to them, either, ever again.  Never able to pick up the phone and hear their voices.

They had both passed away in successive years (2006 & 2007).  The trip to China was a charity event that I undertook in memory of my Dad.  

He was a great walker – being a policeman for 30 years in South Derry he had walked many a mile.  Oh yes, in pursuit of the good and the not so good.

As he walked we talked. We asked and he answered. “ Dad, what’s that, a peewit or a curlew”. He knew the difference.

“ Dad, what sort of tree is that “? He knew all the trees in the wood.

“ Dad , what registration plates are YZ and NZ? “ He knew all the plates and in which county or town the cars were registered.

So you see he instilled in us a love of the countryside.  Of flowers and trees and plants. Of animals. Of the seasons and the harvests.  We loved those walks and we loved him.

…to be continued.
Jan 1 2017

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