I Have My Walking Boots On by Fran Edwards

In the second of three pieces, our regular workshop member Fran Edwards recalls a memory inspired by watching ‘Doing Our Bit’, a film from 1935 about voluntary action groups in Cleveland. 

I have my walking boots on. The ground is muddy but I am standing on flagstones outside the cottage door. The sun is just coming over the mountain range. The door is open slightly and as I push it further I can hear them, their laughter and as yet unbroken boys’ voices, the buzz of anticipation for my response to their hard work. The stone floor, early morning ‘washed’ with huge enthusiasm but minimal experience, is covered in an even spread of muddy water. This is not the only surprise. They have cooked breakfast for us, myself and the other youth leader. There is bacon in a big frying pan, the rashers pink and still semi-transparent, barely heated through. Without doubt this is an outbreak of salmonella just waiting to happen.

They grin at us with unadulterated pride awaiting our response. These boys from the rough end of Liverpool who wanted to walk back down to the nearest village to buy fags on the first night here. Who moan with their wonderfully thick Scouse accents about this ‘bombdie’ in the middle of nowhere but attack the rocks and paths like mountain goats, scaring me with their own lack of fear. These boys who surely know more about life than I do and have a sense of humour and resilience that touches my heart.

As I show my genuine surprise and pleasure and praise their efforts (while wondering what to do with the bacon) I make a silent wish that they never lose those qualities, because I know they will need them.

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