Taking a walk on the mild side

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When you’re out walking the dog, you just can’t help but talk to people. They march right on up and start nattering.

Admittedly, back in the day when our sighthound Walter was more of a loose cannon than he is now, it was with a host of questions and unsolicited advice on how to raise a puppy.

Can’t you control your b****y dog? Does he always do that? I’m not sure that he is “only playing”. How many of those has he caught? Will he come back?

The answers to which were: sometimes, yes, about 10 and when he feels like it.

Now he’s four and listens (occasionally, when there’s no squirrels about and when there’s something in it for him), not every walk is an adventure, which is a huge relief for everyone concerned, and by everyone I mean me.

No, the people we’ve been chatting to this week have been mainly parents of primary school children gamely attempting to entertain their shrieking hellions by prising their Xbox controllers from their sweaty little hands for a single, solitary hour by walking them around the park like some sort of community service.

“Half-term, eh?” you say as they roll their eyes and puff out their cheeks while little Hugo and Periwinkle run riot.

But when they ask where your kids are, and you tell them they’re away at university and college, they look at you in awe like you’re from the future. Sure, getting up when you want, having what you want for dinner every night, watching what you want to watch on television and going out for lunch/tea and cakes/a few drinks/to see a film that doesn’t feature CGI chipmunks whenever you feel like it sounds like a lot of fun - and it is, nine hours of unbroken sleep, night after night, is like medicine.

But if you’re not careful, it is boring. The excellent Secret Footballer wrote that once he’d achieved his lifetime’s ambition of playing in the Premier League, it was a case of, so now what? And it feels like we’ve completed Level 2 of Life, so what’s next? When we’re not playing roadie or bank to our daughters, or working to fund their lifestyles, our time really is our own. And it’s taking some getting used to.