A post from the early days. We have a beautiful old mansion around the corner: the story of a dog walk followed by a little Saturday Night Fever.
Dank mist hung everywhere: above the mansion, above the great ornamental lake, above the doggie walking field.
Who wants to stir from the cosy front room on a day like this?
I’ll tell you who. Some mother who fancies herself the epitome of the British Nanny, and a dog with questionable provenance. My children were press-ganged along. They were plied with the proverbial King’s Shilling and marched off for a brisk constitutional.
As this slightly sorry expedition shuffled across the aforementioned forlorn field, not a soul stirred: with one notable exception.
Close to the terrace walls, where beerswillers often topple into happy oblivion in warmer moments, a man balanced precariously on one foot.
He was not altogether still. There was an air of comic apprehension about him. We all knew something must happen; no-one stays balanced on one trainer, swaying gingerly, forever. Sir Isaac would not approve.
I became aware that Felix, in particular, was transfixed. His tone of voice dripped amused scepticism as he voiced his concerns.
“Mummy, what is that man doing?”
This was a silent place: voices carried cavernously across the misty grassland, and echoed off the walls of the old house. Felix had unwittingly thrown down a gauntlet to his mother.
Because I knew instinctively that the man was listening. “I think,” I announced, “that he is doing Tai Chi.”
Felix is his journalist father’s son. He was not about to stop there. “Tai Chi? What’s Tai Chi?”
I wished with all my heart that I had broader horizons, or alternatively visited a Tai Chi blog on a regular basis. There was only one thing for it: filibuster.
I waxed lyrical about balance and meditation and calm and control, about small movements meaning a lot and large benefits from such micro-muscular management. I employed that greatest of gifts, the Gab. And I walked very fast, striding past the man, with the dog and the children straggling behind, praying fervently that Felix’s next question would be out of earshot.
My closing gambit was: “Shhhhh. He’s trying to concentrate.”
Maddie started to tiptoe considerately.
Felix said no more that day, but I could tell he was impressed. This martial art thing could be quite interesting, he quietly concluded. I think he liked the slow pace; he is a careful young soul, and it seemed safer to him than quick-fire karate or judo.
It is a pity he did not pass this lesson on to his father.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: at the weekend Felix was not on top form. It was decided all his social engagements should be cancelled, and he should spend the weekend on the sofa.
I flew out to church early, leaving Phil in charge.When I returned, a sorry state of affairs met my eyes. “I’m afraid”, Phil announced, “Felix has had a bit of an accident.”
Now I have not heard the full story about this until today. It took a cosy chat over chicken kiev at the dinner table to weasel it out of everyone.
It went like this: when the cat’s away, the mice put on funky seventies music and get in the groove.
I shut the door and flew off, and on went a selection of disco delights. The neighbours must have been delighted. Phil and the two children held their customary impromptu disco, and all was merriment and joy.
They were in extremely high spirits, then, when the number ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ came on. And of course, the jovial quasi-martial arts moves were brought on to great amusement.
Phil brought out the bottom wiggling disco moves. And this, to my children, is like a red rag to the most exuberant and over-enthusiastic bull you could imagine.
They took one look and scurried off to the porch, where nestle two fake-foam cricket bats.
And then they took it upon themselves to spank Phil as he shimmied around the makeshift dance floor. Not with any impact, you understand: fake foam is not an unforgiving task master. But just enough to provide the kind of slapstick comedy the under-tens adore.
Somewhere in the middle of this mayhem, Felix pulled a kung-fu muscle in his neck.
He looked very sorry indeed for his indulgence in martial arts, lying there on the sofa. And for the past three days, he has been walking around with that peculiar no-neck motion and timorous air one usually associates with Beaker from the Muppet Show.
I’m not sure what his views are on martial arts are right now: but I am fairly sure he will not be doing any King-Fu fighting any time soon.
Picture source here