Breaking The Rules
We’ve covered roughly 168km since Moss Side. Since I last wrote a report we have left Sheffield and walked through Chesterfield, Pleasley, Mansfield, Sutton in Ashfeld, Ripley and we’re now in Derby.
Everyday I’ve been challenging my dislike of ‘botheirng’ people that I mentioned in the last report and in response people have helped and even enjoyed helping. A special mention to the family at Pleasley for offering up their garden and to the wonderful people at Marehay miners welfare club for letting us set up camp and being so welcoming with no prior warning.
For me there have been two particularly interesting moments that made me stop and think this week.
The first was in Mansfield at the Nottingham Union of Miners interviewing men who had played important roles in the UK miners’ strikes of the 1980s during the Thatcher years. Having been brought up in a household that virtually hero-worshipped Thatcher it was interesting, and good, for me to hear the other side of events from passionate and determined people who took on the government.
Even more interesting for me however was how some of older generation of men interacted with me. One man shuck my hand and then looked a bit puzzled and asked me if I was a woman! This took me back a bit and then I wondered how long it had been since a woman had been in that room combined with the fact I was wearing trousers, had my hair scraped back and was wearing no make up. Not my most feminine moment I have to admit but I’ve never been asked that before! I was a bit insulted to say the least! The interview started and there was lots of interaction going on but I started to notice the men werent speaking to me and actually werent even making eye contact- until Dana needed something and then I was spoken to. But all the ‘gentlemanly’ things were done- I was offered tea, doors were opened for me etc. They were good men and certainly hadn’t meant to be anything but welcoming but the whole scene gave me a stark reminder of how differently men and women interact in the younger two generations in the UK.
The second interesting scene was in a little village just outside of Derby. At first glance it ticked all the picturesque England boxes; boys and girls of different ethnicities playing cricket on the green in their whites, bunting across the green, a game of bowls, families enjoying lunch at the clubhouse. We stopped by the play park, let Dana free from the pram and started to cook lunch at the side of the park. Then the perfect scene started to unwind a little bit- all the non-white cricket players got on a minibus to drive home, the toilets were filthy and I started to notice that we were getting sideways glances from parents and children were just plain staring at us.
A voice popped in to my head, my Gran’s, (who I love to pieces but who had a quite a few rules about behaviour as my mum was growing up); don’t wear too much make-up ( ”Get that muck off your face”), don’t pierce your ears, don’t eat in the street etc. I was also made to think about a friend who lives in a block of flats in London who’d had a notice through her letter box that she shouldn’t be drying her laundry on the balcony (it’s not that ‘sort’ of neighbourhood.) These are all rules you should follow so that you don’t look ‘common.’ I looked at team Expedition England; Mikael was changing Dana’s nappy in public, we were cooking and eating in public and we were all a bit dirty after a few days on the road. We were breaking a lot of the rules: we definitely looked common. And it was making people in this village feel uncomfortable. I suddenly felt uncomfortable too and I pointed out to Mikael that there was a baby changing facility in the clubhouse- I’ll leave your imagination to fill in the non-English reply I got.
But of course we all conform to certain degree. We’ve been welcomed into another home in Derby (Thank you Gina, Jeremy, Lilly and Daisy) and we’ve taken the opportunity to clean up. Dana has been scrubbed in the bath within an inch of her life. We put all our clothes on a boil wash. As we head to wards Leicester and further south it will be interesting to see how people’s initial reactions to our querky little team- and our lack of rule-following – changes.
*Follow the developments of the journey at http://punkt.luxson.com/daddyadventurer/