Walking the dog – when is enough not enough?

Claire’s dog in woods near Battle, East Sussex. Photo credit: Claire Hill

I do a lot of thinking when I’m out with my dog. There are times when I’d rather stay in bed; when I’d rather pretend that what’s happening in our lives is a dystopian dream – although, perhaps we haven’t yet reached dystopia – perhaps that’s in a few months’ time? There are also mornings when it’s clearly morning, but I need to pretend that it’s still night-time, so that I don’t have to face the day. However, said dog is insistent. She hints by picking up and dropping his socks or my underwear to try and get us to drag our clothes on. We decide who will do the walk on that day; we both prefer to go on our own.

We used to, each of us (I’m referring to the humans in this story), go on walks with a few other chosen people, but over time we’ve both independently come to the conclusion that we don’t feel very sociable; that we can’t do small talk; that we can’t talk about politics because it’s unutterably depressing and so off we trek, each of us on our allotted days, into the woods, across the fields, by the lake…

We hear the birds singing – much more so at this time of year – and the wind rustling the leaves in the tall trees. It feels good to be alone, although I’m not alone of course: my intuitive canine friend is just ahead of me. She stops every now and then – fixing me with her deep brown empathetic eyes – making sure that I’m never out of sight, doubling back on herself just to check that I’m still there. 

Sometimes she can smell foxes, sometimes a deer. A dog’s sense of smell possesses up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to only six million in us. Each sniff they make must tell an interesting story about who passed by earlier…or who or what is in the vicinity. 

Thinking time: near Battle, East Sussex. Photo credit: Claire Hill.

What’s important to me

As I sink further into my chosen world of isolation, I get to thinking about what is important for me, what should be enough for most of us … and why some people seem to want so much more.

I decide that for me it’s a home, a garden (or shared outside space) healthy food, a national health service free at the point of need. Education (free and lifelong) is also a must, libraries in every town, decently paid jobs, inclusion – so that we all belong, human and workers’ rights and quality social care. Add to that a subsidised transport system that would also benefit our precious struggling environment. I want all of us to have these things: not just some of us!

(And earrings of course – my feel good fix – I forgot to mention those). 

Perhaps, I should add to that list, at least one holiday a year; to live in a country that you think your children would thrive in once we’re no longer here; to be loved and to be able to love back. These seem to be such basic requirements; these should be our basic human rights in a country that is supposed to be the sixth richest in the world. 

How has there come to be such disparity between the richest people in their (multi) million-pound homes and the rest of us? The result is unworkable. Inequality breeds resentment and creates political chaos. Haven’t we learned this lesson yet?

So many important pleasures in life are free: the countryside, love, art galleries and museums free to enter, which is wonderful, but in my world there would be music playing in more outdoor spaces, there would be more music playing in the streets and perhaps (quietly, so that we can still hear the tannoy announcements) in stations too. There would be cheap tickets for the theatre, for music and sport, because these activities enrich our lives. I don’t know why any of these suggestions wouldn’t be achievable.

Add to that an honest government, one that cares about the people it governs and one that is also free of corruption; a fair voting system, and then this country would probably be a good place to live in again. It would be a country where people cared about each other again. 

(And in my world, the price of earrings would be discounted, of course. But, I guess that’s probably an extra …).

Follow @SussexBylines on social media