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The boys have been somewhat resistant to exercise that isn’t the gym, taekwando, bouldering or school sports. But today we insisted they venture outside with us and the Vicarage Hound. They emerged, blinking, into the afternoon and we all went down to the secret field, hidden just at the top of the park, near to the gate where we come in. In deference to the Engineer’s desire to not actually really walk anywhere we took a tennis ball and the favourite floppy ring frisbee and installed ourselves in the field.

The Vicarage Hound is very keen on the frisbee, which he can catch in the air, and loves to shake vigorously to ensure its complete surrender. The Vicar and the boys threw the frisbee around and the Vicarage Hound ran between them, at full racing tilt, occasionally successfully grasping the prey and then looping around the field to remind us all that he is by far and away the fastest runner in the family.

I am a little embarrassed to report that I, meanwhile, walked gently round the outside of the field, looking at Spring flowers and tree buds. Although I was taking my exercise more gently, I did have to bellow instructions when the Vicarage Hound took an impressive tumble on an unsuccessful mission to take the frisbee in the air. In his usual fashion when sustaining a minor injury, he held his paw up and whimpered pathetically. No amount of patting on the back was enough to comfort him. The boys had not realised that a sore foot requires attention. You have to look at it properly like a medic called out to a footballer clutching a hamstring. Then you have to stroke the afflicted leg tenderly before the hound will even attempt putting it back on the ground. This is then followed by a limping walk for ten paces or so until, to everyone’s relief, normal service is resumed.

After all the dashing about, and the pseudo injury, the Vicarage Hound took a well earned rest on the grass whilst the rest of us continued with our vigorous and not so vigorous exercise. He has barely moved all evening, and the boys have been much jollier, so I think we were successful in our government mandated exercise: happy teens and dog make for a far better lockdown.

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We don't go this fast...

I’ve recently started a new routine: evening walks a couple of times a week with my pal Beauty and her mum. In an Anglican sort of way, we began the day after Rogation Sunday, just over a week ago, when Vicars are traditionally meant to ‘beat the bounds’ of their parish ie walk around the boundary.

We don’t quite beat the bounds, but we do a good half hour loop within the parish, past houses and the metro line and through a local park. We go at about 6.30pm, whilst the Vicar puts the kids to bed.

I’ve found I’ve been sleeping better already. I’m not sure we’re walking fast enough for it to help much with my waistline, but so far I’m loving the exercise, the open air and the chats. I’m hoping we’ll keep it up in the weeks to come. I think it may prove to be a good source of blog material too, given the encounters we’ve had so far.

As you’d expect in our parish, you get to see interesting sights on a walk about in the early evening. As we set off there are normally some squealy kids on scooters and bikes in the churchyard. Sometimes we have a chat with them as we head off past the metro stop. The first time we walked we spotted three dodgy looking chaps in a patch of woodland. Local police confirmed that that area was being used by drug addicts, now that they’ve cleared away from the churchyard.

Another night we spotted the local drug dealer with his new car and last night there was a whole cluster of dubious characters hanging about on the street when I got home, including a druggie I recognised. I think they’d been collecting their doses. But the oddest thing yesterday evening was meeting the Russians.

As we passed one of the metro stops we walk by, there was a group of people looking like puzzled tourists. Not a normal sight in our post industrial town with nothing to do. When we chatted to them, they were trying to work out the best route to the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in the morning. As we made suggestions about possible routes (it’s not entirely straightforward from here) we got chatting. It turns out they were from a manufacturer of printing presses based in Moscow, who were over here for a trade fair. They were staying in a local hotel and had ventured out to see if they could have an evening out in Birmingham. Hope they had fun and  managed to get to the NEC on time this morning.

I’m loving my evening walks. Can’t wait to see what we’ll come across next time we’re out.

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