The Major is massively into wielding sticks. He is a wielder. Every time we take a walk in a forest, he picks a stick up and wields it. The bigger he gets, the bigger the stick he wields is. At this rate, at some point in his late teens he’ll parading around wielding a Highland caber.
The Major is also therefore into Stick Man. Stick Man is the story of a man who is also a stick. The tale of Stick Man has been adapted into an activity trail by the Forestry Commission who have sites all over the UK. Our nearest option is Jeskyns Park, which isn’t really a forest, more a few pleasant fields next to the M2 in Kent.
We visited Jeskyns in the autumn to follow the Superworm trail; Superworm is a character from a book by Julia Donaldson, who also wrote Stick Man. On that occasion I failed to realise that I’d need cash to purchase the activity pack as part of the trail. I’ve speculated on why my dad and other men of his generation always seem to carry a wad of notes. It’s to pay for activity trails. The unscheduled detour to the cashpoint was marketed to the Major as all part of the adventure, as if the first stage of the Superworm trail was in a petrol station in Morrisons Gravesend.
This time round there was no mistake. As I retrieved the money from my coat pocket to pay for the parking, the attendant asked if I was going on the Stick Man trail. “Yes I am!” I replied, before looking up and realising she was talking to the Major. I am very enthusiastic about trails, it’s one of the reasons I started a family. To give me an excuse to go on trails.
The Stick Man activity pack was disappointing compared to the Superworm version, which contained the actual book as well as a page of stickers. The Major loves stickers, as well as sticks and Stick Man. If he turns out to be as perverse as me then he’ll also be into Sticklebricks and stickleback fish.
So we set off on our adventure. The activities on the trail were necessarily stick-related. Throwing sticks, building towers from sticks, making a nest out of sticks, using the sticks to create those creepy figures from the Blair Witch Project. There was also a suggestion to play Pooh-sticks in a nearby stream, but this was obviously intended for the Forestry Commission sites in actual forests with charming babbling brooks and not a reclaimed farm near a motorway.
Jeskyns was being battered by a breeze that had apparently hotfooted it straight from the Arctic Circle. I lost most of the feeling in my face. The Major is quite slim-hipped like me and his trousers are always low-slung. Every time he knelt down to attend to a requirement of the activity trail his entire backside was exposed and the brutal wind blew straight up it, which has at least redressed some of the balance, given his flatulence. Further details of the activities were included on a leaflet with the dimensions of a Daily Telegraph, thus diabolically difficult to handle in a gale with useless frozen hands.
It was about halfway around the trail that the Major requested a cuddle, which was his way of saying the he’d had enough. At least that’s what I took it as. I’d had enough. I scooped him up and lugged him through the rest of the activities and into the warmth of the café. I rounded off this treat by giving the Major some exclusive Stick Man merchandise: an actual Stick Man figurine (a stick I found on the ground) and a limited edition chocolate Stick Man and his wife (a KitKat).