As you may know, my home town of Stroud is a hilly place (‘heart of the five valleys’) which is quite useful if you like getting fit without having to pay a gym membership. I do, and to this end in my youth I had a penchant for going on expeditions, mostly in Ecuador although I also collected plants in the Hindu Kush and saved whales in Tenerife.
The hills in Andean Ecuador put Stroud’s little antheaps to shame and I’m sure the fittest I’ve ever been was when I had to walk up a steep mountainside in cloud forest for forty minutes every morning.
But the other day I set off with baby in the sling-contraption I’ve cobbled together, to go to the baby sign language group, which is at the top of the hill where I now live, and I took the steep pathway known as Dan Clift’s Pitch that cuts directly upwards over the hill, and it put me in mind of the days when I was hauling my botanical gear up an Andean mountainside.
So if you want to have a baby, or if you want to go on an expedition, I would recommend the other as very good training for the one, and here’s why:
- You spend a fortune on an extensive collection of specialist equipment, most of which won’t work or will just seem ridiculous in context
- Nevertheless you still end up carrying all this clobber about with you
- You get fit and strong
- Your body takes a battering
- You have to put up a convincing pretence (mainly to yourself) of Being Organised and Knowing What You Are Doing
- Rain becomes a torment
- You get completely exhausted but somehow you just have to keep going
- Things keep going wrong and plans always keep changing
- Poo becomes a central concern
- Bureaucrats and petty officials feed on your weakness and make it their business to torment you with surrealist, incomprehensible and pointless paperwork and arcane rules
- Despair and frustration strike regularly
- You get an amazing sense of achievement
- The team forms an incredible bond
- At times you feel incredibly alive and that you have found the meaning of life
- No one else is particularly interested in the amazing experiences you have