I cannot move mountains but I can rescue a mayor | Steve Canavan
It’s been another long week of attempting to hold down a full-time job while being interrupted every five minutes by a three-year-old asking, ‘daddy, can we do a Paw Patrol rescue?’
Now I’m aware not everyone reading will know what Paw Patrol is and up until my first child was born three years ago, I’m happy to say I didn’t either.
Now though, I know only too well it is a mind-numbingly boring cartoon about six dogs who, under the instruction of a 10-year-old, repeatedly rescue the town’s mayor from tricky situations.
Anyhow because our daughter is a huge fan of this programme we bought her a big plastic toy that is a replica of the dogs’ home. She loves it but, rather upsettingly, hasn’t yet learned about independent play, so needs someone else to be with her.
‘Daddy,’ she’ll shout, as I’m attempting to fill in a 4,000-word report on the financial implications of coronavirus on higher education, ‘can you be Mayor Humdinger and I’ll be Rubble and throw a net over you?’
Yet because I may well be the softest parent of all time I can’t refuse and so find myself spending the next 30 minutes of valuable work time lying on the floor pretending to be a dog in a boat.
It leads to an awkward conversation at noon when my boss rings to ask if the report is ready and I’ve only written 27 words of it, but on the upside have spent the last hour completing a successful imaginary speedboat rescue of my daughter from the top of a skyscraper, aka the shed.
I do now regret, when we had an extension built off the back of the house last year, putting my work office downstairs, directly next to the room where the kids play. It has backfired spectacularly, though in my defence I didn’t anticipate there’d be a worldwide pandemic meaning I’d need to work five days a week from home.
I can’t wait to return to work (a sentence I never ever thought I’d write). It is going to be fantastic, like a soldier returning home after a traumatic four months on the frontline of some war-torn foreign territory.
The one pleasure of lockdown is – after the kids have gone to bed, obviously – reading books.
I’m currently immersed in one called Dashrath Manjhi. Mr Manjhi was a labourer in India, born in the 1930s.
He lived in a village at the foot of a mountain and, in 1959, watched his beloved wife die because the nearest town with a doctor was 70km away, along a road which winded around the mountain.
What Mr Manjhi did next was astonishing. Working day and night for 22 years (that's more than 8,000 days), and using only a hammer and a chisel, Mr Manjhi carved a 360-foot long, 30-foot wide hole through the mountain to form a road.
When he first began his epic mission, his fellow villagers used to ridicule him – as one probably would if you spied a fellow chipping away at a mountain.
I mean, imagine if I turned up at Helvellyn with a hammer and announced I was building a road through it, the locals would think I was a nutter and the National Trust would play merry hell.
But, undeterred, Mr Manjhi continued on his lone mission and when, 22 years later the road opened, he had shortened the distance between his village and the next town to 15km.
Given the nickname Mountain Man, he became a national hero, was given a state funeral when he died at the age of 73 a decade or so ago, has had roads and hospitals named after him, and is the subject of a film.
Reading about him made me feel quite ashamed.
This fella single-handedly chiselled his way through a mountain; I can't even hang a door or grout the bathroom tiles.
What I can do quite well, though, is pretend to be a character from Paw Patrol.
Speaking of which, my daughter is calling.