Steve Canavan: Family trek up Nicky Nook... but nature had other ideas
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather at the weekend, Mrs Canavan and I headed to a nearby village for a walk.
I would tell you the name of the village but it might lead to fans of my writing, desperate to meet me and get an autograph and perhaps a signed picture, flooding the place and destroying
life for the locals, so I won’t.
Oh, ok, you talked me into it - it was Scorton, near Garstang, which not only has an incredibly good café serving an excellent ham, cheese and chutney sandwich (information I’m passing on in case you’re there and can’t decide what to order), but because it has – and this I find remarkable considering how tiny it is (the population at the last census was 297) – a very noteworthy famous son.
John Parkinson, born to a poor mill-working family in this remote backwater of a place just before Christmas 1861, went on, rather astonishingly, to design many of the most iconic buildings in Los Angeles.
An uneducated youngster determined to better himself, he enrolled on a nightschool course at Bolton Mechanics Institute studying architectural drafting and engineering, then – clearly not enamoured with the idea of settling in central Bolton - emigrated to the US aged 21 where he took a job as a manual labourer.
Yet by the time of his death in the 1930s, Parkinson, after holing up in Los Angeles, had designed the city’s first skyscraper, the first luxury hotel, the Homer Laughlin Building (now home to the Grand Central Market), Union Station (featured in the film Blade Runner), the Memorial Coliseum (which hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, and is where the 2028 Games will take place) and the famous City Hall. Which I think is just brilliant considering this is a bloke who grew up miles from anywhere in the middle of Lancashire…
As much as I adore Scorton, it is slightly annoying to walk around because all the houses are so stunningly beautiful and large.
Every few yards along the road you can’t help but halt and gawp at yet another gorgeous abode and wistfully say, ‘ooo, what a lovely place that would be to live’.
The properties in Scorton have garages larger than my entire house, though I console myself with the fact that these homeowners will never experience the thrill of having to share a bedroom with a younger sibling or fight with a family member over whose turn it is to use the toilet next.
We were in Scorton to walk up Nicky Nook, a small but perfectly formed hill with lovely views to Morecambe Bay and the Isle of Man, and the Lake District to the north.
In truth, I’d hoped to go on my own but when I informed Mrs Canavan I was nipping out for a quick walk and would be back in around seven hours, she replied testily, ‘you’re going out and leaving me with a toddler and a new-born child?’
“Yes,” I replied. I don’t like to beat around the bush when giving answers to questions.
This prompted an angry reaction from Mrs Canavan, who suggested I wasn’t taking my parental duties seriously.
I tutted theatrically and said she didn’t understand the pressures of being a father to two young children, adding that it was vital I occasionally had my own space. “No man is an island,” I remarked mysteriously, aiming to add a bit of gravitas to the conversation and hoping my wife would be so impressed, or confused, she’d say ‘well, in that case, off you go, have a nice walk’, and perhaps also make me a packed lunch and give me enough money to buy a pint with.
Instead she told me to shut up and insisted she and the children came too.
This was upsetting as the whole point of going walking is to get away from people you’re not keen on, but I realised I was fighting a losing battle, so after a good hour of packing all the appropriate paraphernalia (nappies, snacks, wet wipes, change of clothes, more nappies - and we also had to pack some stuff for the kids too), we headed out.
It’s a relatively easy walk, so I parked the car a couple of miles away to add an element of challenge. This meant we didn’t reach the summit of Nicky Nook until a good two hours after we’d started walking, by which point Mrs Canavan – who had given birth 10 days earlier and as a result had been given a couple of stitches in a place where ideally you don’t want stitches to be – was sweating and looking an odd colour.
Passers-by kept engaging Mrs C in conversation and saying encouraging things like, ‘you’re out walking so soon after giving birth … my goodness I hope you don’t haemorrhage’, before cheerily waving and walking on.
And then, at the top of Nicky Nook - where we stopped briefly to take in the view and for Mrs Canavan to check her maternity pad wasn’t leaking – I made a decision which, with hindsight, I regretted.
You can either turn around and walk the short distance back to the village, then pop in the afore-mentioned lovely café for a brew and cake. Or you can carry on, walk down to a river, and kind of loop back round.
I chose the latter. In my head it wasn’t much further. In reality it absolutely was.
Another two hours later, with children on our back, and with Mrs Canavan now staggering in the manner of an under-prepared competitor taking part in a challenge to jog the length of Canada, we finally reached the café where my wife virtually shoulder-barged an elderly asthmatic lady with a walking stick out of the way in order to secure the last free seat.
It took her an hour and three slices of lemon drizzle for her to fully recover, during which period she unleashed a volley of expletives in my direction and suggested I had tried to kill her. I gently reminded her that she’d asked, nay, demanded, to accompany me but this didn’t seem to appease her.
It was an icy atmosphere in the house that evening, where Mrs Canavan spent the night sitting on an extra-padded cushion.
On the upside, though, I know she’ll never want to come walking with me again.