Having children concentrates the mind. It gives you a longer term perspective on things. Sometimes this can actually be useful in getting things across to the children themselves. Take the Olympic Games. When my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, my son was 18 months old and my daughter not even a speck on the horizon. My son might have been to a hockey match and a badminton session, but not surprisingly he doesn’t remember it! Actually this is just as well, as he spent most of the hockey match pushing me down a hill outside the stadium and giggling, and had just settled down for his lunchtime nap at the badminton when he was awoken screaming by some very noisy Scottish supporters.
So when we announced that we intended to apply for lots of tickets for the London Olympics, the reaction, particularly from my son, who doesn’t like crowds (on reflection, possibly due to his experience at the badminton!) or the out of the ordinary, was not necessarily positive. Trying to convey what a once in a lifetime opportunity this was, I told them “if the Olympics takes as long to come back to the UK as it has been since its last visit, you will both be in your 70s by the time it returns.” This hit the spot, and next thing I knew they were making (long) lists of sports they wanted to see. Hence our forthcoming 10 day trip to London and tickets for 12 events – yes it was us who got all those tickets in the ballot!
Another aspect of this long term perspective is concern for the environment. I have in the past been guilty of driving vast numbers of miles, but in autumn 2010 I sold my car, so the family gets by with one. And that never goes any further than about 10 miles away, where my wife works. If we go any further afield, to see family in Devon or Oxfordshire or to take the children to London, Chessington World of Adventure or Legoland, we go on the train (a family railcard is a wonderful thing).
Now we know we are very lucky that the Greater Manchester public transport network is excellent, both in terms of getting around within the area or further afield for business or leisure. But as middle-aged spread threatened, and my 50th birthday loomed large, I went a step further, and began walking to the office from Hale and back again, a round trip of some 13 miles. Oddly enough this does not involve getting wet as often as you might think (except this summer) and has opened up some opportunities to raise money for charity.
Thus in 6 months last year I lost 3 stone to raise money for our local church, All Saints Hale Barns, and next year I have promised to walk the 225 miles of the Trans Pennine Trail (not to be confused with the Pennine Way) for After Adoption, another local charity.
Keeping an eye open for matters environmental also brought to my attention the St John’s Sunshine project near the office in Old Trafford, a ground breaking scheme whereby St John the Evangelist parish centre has installed solar panels and formed a co-operative to finance them and raise money to fund local community projects. If only our own church roof didn’t leak on such a regular basis I might be tempted to suggest something similar in Hale Barns.
Even the children have (to some extent) taken to the walking theme, provided the walk goes somewhere near a sweet shop! My son walked to and from the office with me last year and 5 miles around Stretford in between, although I was told he couldn’t walk the day after!
All of this has even had an impact on my business life, as I have taken a much greater interest in the significant and varied, if somewhat haphazard, list of tax reliefs available for environmentally friendly behaviour. This list will only get longer and less haphazard; indeed the EU has stated that within a generation it believes that environmental behaviour will replace level of income as the main determining factor in the incidence of taxation, at least on business.
So I have now walked the Trans Pennine Trail from Heatley to Cheadle, and the Bridgewater Canal from Boothstown to the M6 beyond Lymm (not all in the same day though!) at great benefit to my health and wallet, though at great cost to my footwear budget (I must walk very strangely, given where my boots and shoes always wear). I have applauded the courtesy of cyclists on the Bridgewater Canal towpath and cursed their (adult) counterparts who prefer cycling on pavements to roads. My carbon footprint is now much smaller than my shoe size (11) and only having one car is rarely a practical problem, this being largely a state of mind. Oh, and my poor deprived children have never flown, much to my daughter’s chagrin, although she tries to make up for this with her speed around cross country courses and athletics tracks.
So to anyone who aspires to improve their environmental profile, it can be done, with a little imagination and some willpower, and I would heartily recommend the benefits of a less hectic and stressful and more peaceful and reflective lifestyle. Next on the agenda is some research into the Green Deal, to see how we can make the house more carbon efficient, although I think a few car boot sales may be required to clear the loft before we go down that route, which could be difficult, because we only have the one small car……….