The late, great Joe Strummer, when asked how he pondered the break-up of The Clash, said: “You can resolve a lot of things by going for a five mile walk.”
Strummer was a great walker and renowned bonfire maker at Glastonbury. For a man whose music was essentially urban, he loved the great outdoors.
So out walking with my 14-year-old son, Nicholas, yesterday we agreed that 2016 has been a momentous year.
Personally, we’ve had our troubles. Nicholas needed an appendectomy in springtime and has a nine-inch scar to show for it.
His much-loved grandma/my mum died after a long illness in late summer. Needless to say she is much missed, especially as the winter nights draw in and Strictly Come Dancing, The Apprentice and I’m a Celebrity were all avid subjects of autumn conversation with her.
Teresa (Nick’s mum/my wife) has an impending operation and I was on painkillers for sciatica at the start of the year.
Add to the mix Donald Trump, Brexit and Leicester City winning the Premier League, and we agreed it has been a strange year all told which, Leicester aside, we’re not too sure about.
“It is hard to think what good has happened?” said Nicholas. Trying to summon up an answer I replied: “How about what we’re doing now?”
For the past few months, Nicholas and I have gone for a walk most days, usually early evening to put a full stop to the end of the working day or on Saturday and/or Sunday mornings.
It has helped build up Nick’s stamina following his operation and, for me, provide some much-needed fresh air after looking at a computer screen all day. More importantly, we’ve had the chance to chat about everything and anything.
As his schoolteachers will know, Nicholas has opinions on many things and can always rationalise his thoughts on many topics. We’ve always encouraged him to question everything – not to be awkward or insolent but so he can learn, understand and be reasoned.
He’s doing exceptionally well at school and constantly uses his laptop for research. He frequently reaches back into history to make sense of the present.
Our walks have made us closer. Nick has been able to confide and share conversations only dads and lads should have. For me, the bonding has been brilliant – a chance to offer a bit of parental advice here and space for Nicholas to ask me questions.
The bonus is we get some great exercise in the process so we’re getting fitter, healthier and happier (we have a lot of laughs) and are usually hungry for our evening meal when we get home.
It is also free. As a parent, you can spend lots of false time and money trying to make your children happy by buying things and having things done to or for them.
Sometimes, most times maybe, all they want is to share, to be listened to and just spend some quality time together.
Nicholas and I are consequently closer than we’ve ever been. We’re slowly coming to terms with the loss – in our differing ways – of a dear mum and grandmother.
We usually come back with a cheery smile and joke or two for Teresa, whose own walking preference is usually a BBC download (Danny Baker or the Radio WM sport phone in) so no one misses out.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there… make 2017 the year to go walking.
Chris Green is an award-winning author and broadcaster – and managing partner of Chris Green Media – which inspires organisations to communicate better by connecting deeper.