Walk #15: Shama and Shay

Walk #15, with: Shama (born 1976) and Shay (born 2013)

Date: 29 June 2016

Where: Epping Forest, Essex

Shama was one of my housemates for two years in Brighton. We fell out and lost touch for about eight years before resuming our friendship very easily in our thirties. Nowadays our lives couldn't be much more different (Shama is civil partnered, has two delightful young children and works very hard in local government), yet our core values are similar and I think we feel very safe with each other. It was therefore a high priority for me to spend a night and a day with Shama at their new home in Highams Park.

After walking Sasha (5) to school, Shama, Shay (3) and I drove to Epping Forest for a lovely walk. Having spent perhaps a hundred Saturdays mountain biking in the Forest it now feels wonderfully familiar to me at any time of year.

We started by fortifying ourselves with some breakfast at the Butlers Retreat cafe.

The night before, Shama's partner Sadhana had described a guided walk she'd recently done during which she was encouraged to look for items of as many different colours as possible. She'd been amazed by how many not-brown and not-green objects she'd found. We decided to play the same game in the Forest, and were similarly delighted with our yellow lichen, pink blossom, black slug, silver and blue condom packet etc!

Shay is completely edible, and was excellent - and verbal - company. Shama and I had an interesting conversation about how you assess risks as a parent, in order to strike a balance between appropriate caution and allowing kids to learn about the world through direct experience (even when this means grazing their knees sometimes). Several sets of co-parents I am close to have struggled to reconcile very different levels of tolerance of risk in relation to their children, which of course are programmed by their own parents' styles when they were young.

On our way back to the car I found a suitable tree with nice low branches, which Shay and I spent some happy minutes climbing.

Somehow we'd worked up another appetite so we headed to Walthamstow market to enjoy the wonderful diversity of that area, with its Romanian delis, naan bakeries and pie and mash shops. We got back home in the nick of time for Shama to collect Sasha from school ready for a playdate with a Slovakian classmate.

Thank you Shama for hosting me, and for being one of the people by whom I feel really accepted. Also, I'm so glad you're cycling again! Perhaps one day you'll bring your bike and join me for a few days?