Norman’s Walk – Chapter 1
I’ve had a lot of people say I should write a book about Norman’s Walks. I wasn’t sure what anyone really wanted or meant by that, but as usual, I decided to be undeterred by not knowing what I’m doing, and I had a go.
He thinks licking my face while I bend down to tie my laces is going to speed things up, but here’s the thing Norman – it won’t. I grab his lead, wipe the saliva out of my eyeball and we’re off out the door.
If I could be bothered to draw him properly and you could see inside his soul, this is what Norman looks like:
If I put a bit more effort in, and flatter him a little, he actually looks more like this:
The walk starts at 7.00 am. The reason it’s so early is because of this:
Norman’s bowels. He’s regular and whines like a baby from 6.30 onwards.
He has a lot of ‘comfort’ breaks on the walk because his intestines have Great Dane/African Elephant aspirations, hence the upgrade to the 50kg rucksack.
I head down the street and almost instantly get my first compliment from a woman I’ve never met before.
‘You’re a handsome fella, aren’t you? ’ she says enthusiastically.
I don’t want to boast, but recently, when I’m out and about with Norman, I’ve been getting a lot of compliments. Don’t tell my wife, Diane. I may be 56, but age has obviously been good to me. It only started happening recently, about the time we got Norman. But before then, I didn’t walk around the town as much, so that’s probably why.
‘What a beautiful boy.’
The woman gives Norman a stroke and a tickle and moves on.
I have this fairly set walk involving some fields, a rugby pitch, a wood, a river and back through the town. But first, there’s one thing I need to avoid at all costs. So I speed Norman down the lane towards the main road.
I whizz passed No. 15 who loves a Sunday roast, roasted with a few onions and parsnips and a sprig of Thyme on top. He doesn’t like the legs, wings or that browny stuff underneath. I don’t know this person, so is this magical powers I hear you say? Sadly not, it’s bin day and he never shuts his bin lid. The local seagulls form an orderly queue on the pavement. You probably don’t speak Squawk so I’ve overdubbed into English.
I wave to Robert in the window at No.20.
It’s not Robert by the way. I used to work with Robert and I saw him on the street the other day. He told me he lives at 19 not 20. So about a year ago, I made a new wavy friend.
No. 26 is Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Ruler of The Seven Kingdoms and Protector of Humanity. As the sun rises, there’s still energy in his solar-powered torches to allow safe passage through his imaginary portcullis to his three-bedroomed semi.
I get passed all these and we’re almost at the main road, I’m tense. I cross the road and start to run. Just a little awkward run/walk that dads do when they’re trying to move faster but don’t want anyone to think they’re wearing lycra underneath and this is actually running. Norman thinks it’s hilarious, but I don’t care because this is the crucial moment, this is who I really want to avoi…
‘He hasn’t been eating you know…
Damn it. Damn it all to hell. I mentally fall to the ground like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes and shake my fists at the heavens.
It’s The Medic.
‘The ulcerations are back…’
Question: Why do some people always seem to be in and out of their front doors all day? The Medic is always just coming out or just going in, or pottering…
‘… on his liver.’
Sweet Lord. She isn’t a medic. She works in B&Ms but she, and now me, know everything about her dog’s internal organs.
‘They made him shake until he vomited last night, and the chunks that come out of him… everywhere… you should’ve seen what I found down the back of my sofa…
‘ …and the diarrhea… I’m telling you, when you walk in here through my front door I don’t take my wellies off I put another heavy-duty pair on…
She reaches into the doorway and lifts out some heavily soiled waders.
‘…knee deep, you could fill a bath. But that’s not the worst bit…’
‘You know what the worst bit is… ‘
Keep walking, Ian, keep walking.
‘I had to give up smoking. I had to <insert swearing> give up smoking to pay for his medication and I absolutely love smoking. He’s feeling better, I feel awful, can’t get out of bed without a fag so I’m vaping now…’
I don’t know what The Medic actually looks like, but she can talk like this for ten pages if you want, and it’s not as if she didn’t tell me it all yesterday. But I’m going to save you that, because we have to get on. Email me if you want to know what she found behind the telly a week last Tuesday.
I say ‘that’s terrible’ and ‘really’ and ‘the poor thing’ several more times and employ my exit strategy.
In truthful world, I say ‘I’ve got to go because you told me yesterday and I don’t give a flying flip today.’ but I’m incredibly two-faced so I lie.
‘Must press on, I’ve got an appointment to get my spleen cleaned …’ I feel keeping with the medical theme of the conversation is important, and by then I’ve backed off enough to smile, wave and sprint my spleen out of there.
She’s still talking, but there’s an unsuspecting sap approaching from the left to take up the baton.
I’m round the corner now, phew. This is where the walk really begins.
I take a left and head out of town towards the pine and beach trees. I watched a documentary the other day about intelligent trees and how they communicate with other trees in forests and the next morning, on this path, Sid opened his eyes and started smiling.
Sid is a tree. I don’t care what you’re thinking right now, because this isn’t some stupid internet thing where they’ve seen Elvis’s poltergeist in a haunted chip shop and provided a fuzzy photo at midnight. I’m not that daft. I have a photo of Sid in broad daylight.
I call him Sid because he looks a bit like Sid the Sloth from Ice Age and, as far as I know, his goal in life is to disprove the theory of intelligent trees.
Sid has a mouth but doesn’t say anything, which is completely obvious because he has no lungs or vocal chords to blow the air across. But his mouth does move, only very slowly. He is trying to say something I’m sure of it. Because I watched that 50-minute documentary, I realise to talk with him effectively I would need to stand close to him in my bare feet for as long as it takes for a network of underground fungi to grow up my legs and connect with my central nervous system. Norman hasn’t had his poo yet so I can’t hang about that long.
I always say ‘Hi’ though, and so he doesn’t think I’m discriminatory by excluding his language, I make a creaking sound like a branch waving as I leave. Norman adds a bit of ammonia, enzymes and uric acid to his roots which might be offensive in tree speak.
I see Sid quite often, and because this isn’t a made-up story, I obviously took that photo to the police, because I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t know who’s an expert in trees with faces. The police said I’d photoshopped some silly eyes and a mouth on a normal tree and if I came back they’d charge me with wasting police time under section 5 (2) Criminal Law Act 1967. I took it to a professor at the university.
So that was it, I left it at that. Until now. Because now I’m telling you, in the hope that you believe me.
But let’s press on with the walk for now.
The path crosses a stream, where all the trees are normal, and then narrows and I see someone up ahead. It’s still early so not totally light yet and the trees are quite thick which made it even darker.
I’m a reasonably fast walker, in fact I pride myself on being speedie. When I say ‘pride myself’, I don’t mean I have a badge and tell everyone all the time but because I walk fast (did I tell you that) I have an issue with slow walkers.
And the slowest walkers in the known universe are teenagers.
When walking with my daughter I usually prepare by filling my shoes with broken glass and taking a baseball bat to both my ankles but I still get complaints.
So, from the unhurried apathetic plod of the person up ahead, it looks like a teenager. And, worse, I think it’s a teenage girl. Bear in mind, anyone under 40 looks like a teenage girl to me nowadays, even boys. She was walking so slowly that I was forced to call David Attenborough’s Green Planet time-lapse photography team and borrow some equipment to verify there was actual movement.
I couldn’t physically walk that slowly. I took two forward and three back, I pretended I was walking in wet cement or I was Neil Armstrong on the moon
But I was still gaining on her at a remarkable pace.
This is a major issue for men I think. How to overtake a woman in the dark?
Do you just hang back and creepily follow at a very slow pace? I would normally cross over, whizz passed (because did I mention what an incredibly fast walker I am) and cross back, but this was a narrow lane with trees everywhere.
I saw her head move and didn’t know whether she’d seen me or not, which stressed me even more. Norman looked at me.
Sweet Jesus, a tortoise zoomed passed me and I thought ‘I need to get passed sometime before the end of the universe’, so I’m going for it.
I went into full-speed mode.
When I was about to pass, I said to the teenager.
‘Sorry, I’m just…erm…’
I have a thing that I never finish sentences when it’s very important that I do so. In this case, the end of the sentence could’ve been anything:
‘Sorry, I’m just…erm…attacking you.’
But it was meant to be:
‘Sorry, I’m just…erm… passing you because I need to get home before the end of the universe.’
Either way, it didn’t matter, she had her headphones in and didn’t hear anything I said. As I went passed her shoulder I smiled in a way that was supposed to convey ‘I’m harmless and have daughters of my own, so don’t worry.’
The last time I heard a scream like that, my daughter was plummeting to earth on ‘The Tower of Terror’
That load of scribble can no way convey the terror of the sound.
It was at that moment that Norman did what he said he was going to do and jumped at her. I was warned. And the tower of terror bounced back up and went again.
‘Sorry sorry sorry… x 300′ was all I could say.
This was a lose-lose, leave or be arrested, situation, and as you know the police already hate me, so I apologise another three hundred times and moved on swiftly.
Unfortunately, her screams were so loud Norman’s tail stopped wagging and the Blank-Faced Man appear out of the gloom.
End of Chapter
That’s all I’ve got so far.
I would really appreciate any feedback below. Whether it doesn’t make sense, it’s just silly or annoying, whether you’d read anymore, or you think it might make a good story. Anything would be appreciated. Thanks
Have a great weekend.
Take care and all the best,