My worst nightmare is turning up for a Duke of Edinburgh walk completely and utterly prepared, to find that something unpredictable, unpreparable-for and potentially walk-curtailing has happened. Today, in a very cold school playground, the BYM (big yellow minibus) wouldn't start. At all.
Oh, Handsome absolutely did his best. He got the bonnet open (after one of the parents found the hidden catch), whilst I called people who might possibly have jump-leads, and another parent dashed home to see if they had any in their garage. He even found an ancient quick-charger in the shed and tried that, but it had obviously last been recharged some time in the eighties, and had no life. All our mutual attempts at finding jump leads failed as well, and we were faced with a delighted not to have to walk in the cold despondent group of young people.
And then, their parents (obviously horrified at the thought that they might have to take them home again) rallied round. They packed kids and rucksacks into various cars and followed us to the start point, promising (luckily) to pick them up again at the other end, and then left us to it. We abandoned our car and keys with one of our colleagues, who we volunteered to take our car to the other end for us, and set off on a bitterly cold but sunny winter walk.
Although it was a gorgeous day today, it was raining heavily yesterday and the first part of today's walk is muddy at the best of times. There are a plethora of wooden planks with staples in which are apparently supposed to help you keep your footing. They may well do so in August. Today, they were mostly slimy (having been underwater yesterday if they weren't still underwater today), and half-icy progressing to fully icy as we went uphill. Most of us were muddy to the knees before we reached the Cauldstane Slap. Luckily I had borrowed my Papa's gaiters (thanks Papa), which were so useful that he may not be getting them back anytime in the immediate future.
As usual, once the kids got into their stride they pulled away from us fast. We had a fleeting reunion when they were "not really lost, just not quite where we should be" at lunchtime, and we had to go and check that they knew where they were going next – which they did. After that we abandoned them to the last stretch whilst we went for a very welcome cup of coffee in Carlops.
And the parents turned up to pick them up at the end (although one of them discovered that satnavs don't recognise Ninemileburn), and didn't even look too upset at the muddiness of the teenagers they were packing into their nice clean cars – apart from one no-nonsense mother, who made her extremely filthy (worse than the others) son strip down to his shorts in the car park! I would have felt sorrier for him, if I didn't know that he'd got that muddy deliberately bottom-sledging down one of the hills.