Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Race of the Snails

Or, You Can Push a Boy to School but You Cannot Make Him Run

If only the school run looked like this...
People driving past our school at about 8.56 am on a weekday morning will generally observe the following, in order:
1) A small boy,
2) Followed, a good bit behind, by a rather smaller small boy and his father.

The father's hand appears to be placed reassuringly on his son's back, in a touching gesture of paternal fondness. Together they stroll slowly along, as if all the time in the world was simply waiting for them to make use of it. It doesn't seem to matter that the school gates are still some distance away and registration takes place in less than ten minutes. Here are two people who have apparently modelled their entire existence on those stirring works of Sir Francis Drake: "There's time enough to finish our walk and beat the school bell too".

But the casual observer, observing this, might have missed out on a few revealing details. For instance, is that fatherly hand resting languidly on his son's shoulder-blades or actively pushing him along? If the former, why is the boy's coat apparently hitched up at the back as though impelled by some determined force? Why is he leaning backwards, feet glued to the floor? Why are the faces of father and son so agitated when they should be relaxed in tranquil repose? Why is the father seemingly muttering threats angrily into his son's ear? Why... but I leave these observations... The answer is plain.

We're late for school again.
And Isaac is on a go-slow.

Getting out of our door in the mornings is always a tedious business. Good intentions invariably count for little. I may intend for us to be on our way in plenty of time but unfortunately I have some inbuilt glitch which never fails to make me late. Consequently what should be a gentle stroll to school almost always becomes a mad dash. Or it would be, if Isaac appreciated what the words 'mad dash' meant.

You can't hurry Isaac. Where Graham sprints, he ambles - usually with his hands in his pockets. It matters not to him that we are late and the way is long. Encouragements and recriminations alike fall upon deaf ears. If there is a puddle to be stepped in he will step in it. If there is a lorry to be looked at he will look at it. So long as movement consists only of shuffling one foot at a time he is quite happy. Any attempts on my part to make him think otherwise are doomed to failure. Isaac has two strategies to resist calls for haste: he either ignores them, or he stops completely. He would rather expend breath in protesting than he would in increasing the speed of his (and - by extension - our) progress.

He cannot be shamed or inspired to greater efforts. You might point out that Graham is drawing ahead and he is being left behind. He will either ignore you or want Graham to wait. You may remark that there are people coming up behind who want to get past. He will simply watch them go by. For someone, like myself, who is accustomed to making up for his lateness by walking as fast as possible such a philosophy can be quite maddening.

Yesterday, for example, we found ourselves being pursued by two old ladies and a dog. They were two old ladies who clearly were not rushing for an appointment. The dog was similarly unconcerned. It developed into a sort of ghastly race, like two snails inadvertently advancing upon the same lettuce leaf, where Isaac and I (unconsciously on his part) attempted to avoid being overtaken by our pursuers. We did - just - but I think only because they stopped to chat with a friend on the way.

Fortunately there is one way to make Isaac go faster than crawling pace and that is to mount him on two wheels. We went for a walk recently and, aware of Isaac's (lack of) turn of speed I gave my fellow walkers two options. "Isaac can walk and we get nowhere," I said, "or we can take his bike." We took the bike.

To be fair to Isaac he entered into the spirit of the thing most wholeheartedly. Houses on fire could not have set off at a quicker lick than he did, nor have maintained the same rate of progress. It wasn't long before I had abandoned my companions and was striding out in hot pursuit. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the countryside glowed. At least I think it did. Speaking for myself I didn't have much leisure to examine it; my eyes were fixed upon a small figure on a balance bike weaving its way between the crowds of people on the path ahead.

The people laughed as I trotted by.
I began to run.
A gangly figure chasing a little boy in blue.
In motion at last.      

No comments:

Post a comment