Patient partners deserve more credit and gratitude

Depending on your job, hobbies or interests, your other half might put up with a lot in order to support you. It’s time to properly thank them, writes Ben Dolphin.

“Are your holidays proving more pleasurable than ours?” She asked.

She was on Mull, I was on Ardnamurchan. I peered at the selfie that accompanied her message. Her face filled the left third of the frame but, to be honest, I’d never have known who it was, because only her nose and eyes were visible behind a zipped-up waterproof.

Clearly padded with warm clothes and a woolly hat, she looked cold and fed up. Or, at least, her nose and eyes did.

Behind her stretched a long, empty beach. Surely stunning on a brighter, more benign day, here it was grey and windy with waves crashing, white horses galloping. Gawd, it looked bitter!

And, there, to the right of the frame, was her other half. Binoculars in hand, he was looking out to sea. His waterproof hood was similarly tightly drawn, his face similarly hidden. He, too, was wrapped up from the elements, but was clearly in his own, regardless.

He seemed oblivious to the photograph, which made the scene comical. I laughed aloud, but then had a guilty feeling of familiarity.

We put up with a lot to support the ones we love – even beaches in bad weather (Image: Steve Silver Smith/Shutterstock)

Substitute me for him, my partner for her, and a camera for the binoculars and, yep, that photo pretty much sums up most of our walks and holidays together. That obviously included the very holiday we were on at that moment, for we had already “endured” several scenic (but soggy) walks.

I will happily investigate anything and everything, snapping away as I go. As such, our walks aren’t so much journeys from one point to another, but rather stuttering stop-start-stop-start packages of 20 or 30 wanders connecting various random and spontaneous points of interest. A curious rock. A gnarly tree. A shiny beetle. Or, most often, a detour borne of “I just want to see what’s over that rise”.

Not that my partner and I both cover the same ground when we’re on a walk together. And, coincidentally, this point was brought home to me just a few days earlier, via Twitter.

Distracted dogs (and people) make incredible discoveries

An account called History of Geology had tweeted an image: a simple map of hill contours titled “Hiking through backcountry”. A single red line wound the most direct, logical course along an obvious ridgeline, thus depicting the course of a nice, high-level walk. Overlain was a wriggly green line that had little in common with the red one.

The green line ranged all over the place. Darting forwards, backwards, up and down slopes, zig-zagging here and there, and sometimes going in circles. Very occasionally, it ran parallel to the red one, but mostly it was off doing its own thing.

If you didn’t know better, the key could have labelled the red line as “dog owner”, and the green as “their overexcited dog”. But, instead, the green one was labelled “geologist” and the red was “their partner”.

Outdoor access group ScotWays had retweeted the image, commenting: “You could easily replace ‘geologist’ with ‘photographer’”.

Or, in the case of my friend on holiday on Mull, ecologist. Or, in my case, ranger.

But, really, there’s a whole demographic out there: those nerdy outdoors professionals who can’t seem to walk from one place to another without constantly getting distracted.

Not that distraction is a bad thing in itself, of course. Great things have been discovered from being distracted on walks, after all. The 19,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings in the Dordogne, for example – discovered inadvertently in 1940 by an 18-year-old while he was walking his dog, Robot.

Robot found their way down a hole, distracting the young lad from his walk, and subsequently enticing him into the dark, where he would unwittingly discover a cavern of around 2,000 animal paintings and engravings.

See? Overexcited dogs are great!

Here’s to understanding other halfs

What the red line doesn’t show are the periods my partner spends standing still, doing nothing. The amount of time he’s spent waiting for “tiny speck” (me) to get bigger, to re-emerge, to catch up.

For 14 years now, he’s been putting up with it. Even the very first time we met, on a walk, I marooned him on a bealach because I “just wanted to see what’s over that rise”. Aye, that was the warning sign, right there!

Impulsively, I stopped, fumbling for my camera – but it was one rainbow too many

Quite frankly, he has the patience of a saint and never complains, although he did snap last week on our way down an Ardnamurchan summit, when the rain was threatening, the wind tugging, and a glorious rainbow framed the Moidart hills beyond.

Impulsively, I stopped, fumbling for my camera – but it was one rainbow too many.

“Ugh, you’ve got loads of rainbow photos already!”

That was an understatement, and, therefore, impossible to argue with. I put the camera away and we resumed our descent.

Yep, he deserves better. As do all the owners of all the overexcited dogs of this world.

Ben Dolphin is an outdoors enthusiast, countryside ranger and former president of Ramblers Scotland

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