So there’s mate and I, sat round the kitchen table sipping mugs of “special” coffee. “Special” in our parlance cos its actually bog-standard instant coffee… but liberally laced with something a tad stronger.
Much needed too. When we could actually manage to sip it. A bit of difficulty in that department as both of us were struggling to stay awake.
Knackered, the pair of us.
Legs aching. Other bits aching. Longing for nothing other than long hot baths and… ooh… sleep! Longing, that is, in those brief interludes when we could manage to stop our heads dropping onto the kitchen table in weariness.
All right for me of course cos I was already home. Mate, on the other hand, still had his homeward trek to do. Good! That means I could get sorted before him.
Whence came this state of utter exhaustion?
Fields it was. Fields are to blame. Big muddy fields. And hedges. Loadsa hedges. Hedges bordering fields. Lots of the buggers. And hedges and fields all tend to look the same… in the dark.
“Is this where we turn?” asks mate. “Looks like it to me” sez I. But then, that’s me, always agreeable. Except it wasn’t. We’d obviously missed our turning (as we later realised) and trudged on blithely unaware, in consequence adding umpteen more fields, scrambles through hedges and ditches, and confused mutterings of “shit, where the hell are we?” to our trek.
Which resulted in a brief hiatus whilst we argued with each other about who’d lost the maps, and who’d had them in the first place.
In reality of course neither of us had. We’d not taken maps with us. Why would we bother with maps in our own back yard so to speak? Wouldn’t have done us much good anyway cos we didn’t have torches with us to read them by. After all, we weren’t expecting to be out after dark. It just sort of happened.
But, humour never being too far from our escapades, stuck in the middle of a field in the midst of nowhere, totally clueless to where we actually might be in relation to anywhere else, we just had to stop and replay a Blair Witch Project scene cos it seemed sort of appropriate somehow.
And we both find it really hard to take much of anything too seriously. Especially ourselves.
This particular trek will no doubt go down in the annals of our little circle as “The Idiots go for a Walk”.
One in a long line, spanning many years, of similar such adventures.. “The Idiots go Shopping”; “The Idiots Light a Fire”; “The Idiots Order a Takeway” etc. Tales of hilarious mishaps, misunderstandings, miscalculations, and general cock-ups. Whilst engaged in perfectly straightforward activities that somehow go completely wrong. And usually take far longer than any sensible person could reasonably expect. Attributable to… well… essentially we’re both a bit clueless. As I said.
Confusion, in fact, seems to be our default state.
So how come we ended up trudging around muddy fields in the middle of the night?
Well, not actually yer proper middle of the night. More like early evening really. But Winter’s approaching and the evenings are drawing in. Fast. Hell. Its almost the middle of November. Whaddya expect?
So it was dark. And as far as I’m concerned that means it was the middle of the sodding night!
Well, it was like this see… we’d been returning from an unanticipated visit to the Old Warden Tunnel nature reserve. Where we’d already exhausted ourselves climbing up and down those unevenly spaced and slipperily muddy millions of steps.
Down into the cutting first, via one lot of nightmarish steps, then, on exiting, up the steps at the other side of the cutting. Which proved to be equally as arduous. Bloody endless, or so they seemed.
Not that we’d needed to go up the second lot of steps. We could have walked the relatively gently sloping grassy pathway that lies outside one of the fences. Except mate didn’t know it was there.
I did of course, from my previous visit. But when he seemed inclined to go up the steps I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the pathway.
“Make the bastard struggle”, that’s my motto. But somehow I’d managed to forget the fact that I’d be struggling too. Oops.
What was with this unanticipated jaunt then?
Well, it may conceivably have been my idea. Ho hum. A spur of the moment sort of suggestion arising from the fact of our having been, some time earlier, within spitting distance of it and it seemed to me like a neat idea to share such a magical location (as I remembered it) with mate.
Except we weren’t quite within spitting distance. Not precisely. Bloody miles away in fact, or so we discovered… after we’d finally arrived there of course.
Perfectly legitimate miscalculation though.
Trudging up this really muddy hillside track alongside a field, I’d looked across and said “Hey, that nature reserve’s just the other side of those hedges there. How’d you fancy going that way?”
Well, it looked like it could have been just the other side of the hedges. Just as well I hadn’t specified how many hedges. Or indeed how many fields. And how was I to know that anyway? Perfectly innocent mistake.
Of course, it might not have taken us quite so long had we not stopped to have a chat with some guy who appeared to be living in a cottage in the middle of nowhere who, quite understandably, was intrigued to know what we were doing wandering around in the middle of nowhere like a pair of right loons.
Real friendly he proved to be, after preliminary conversational skirmishes. Along the lines of “What are you up to then?”. Which developed into a fascinating chat about photography and what great pics one could get from his location if one had a decent telephoto lens.
In fact, it was getting to the point where we wanted to be off but couldn’t really depart cos it would seem rude, what with him being so chatty and all. Made a complete mockery of all the grief photographers are supposed to be getting from joe public.
Country-type character he was, and initially a little dubious/suspicious of our cameras and stuff. As indeed we were a bit wary of him, having not long left the precincts of a real dodgy-looking structure that conjured up images of banjo-playing hillbillies, meat hooks hanging from the roof, chainsaws, and… er… cannibalism.
Methinks mate and I watch far too many crap movies.
And we’d come across that after having not long exited a delicious little copse that mate had discovered off to the side whilst trudging up this bloody long hill.
A bit spooky it looked… so of course it acted practically as a magnet to us, and we spent a fair old while exploring its mysteries.
But we wouldn’t have been trudging up that bloody long hill in the first place had mate not looked up there from the bottom and enquired whether or not I’d travelled that particular path before. And, I have to confess, it was one I’d not spotted in my previous treks so it was fairly enticing. But clearly it was all his fault really.
We’d stopped at a sort of junction between fields see, undecided which way to go, having already walked a little bit further than we’d originally planned.
But we were just now beginning to truly get into the spirit of pic-snapping and were a bit reluctant to head back straight away. And we weren’t totally worn out just yet. Still “up for it” so to speak.
(Hmm… must remember to factor in the return journey in future when trying to calculate how knackered we’re gonna be! Or more importantly, how knackered I’m gonna be. Its a bit irritating really cos we seem to overlook that little detail… every bloody time!)
Up until then it had all been fairly easy-going.
Well, aside from my scrabbling around in ditches of course, and mate having to help haul me out. (No, don’t ask why I was messing around in ditches. I like ditches. And its a damn sight better going into them voluntarily than having mate kick me into them. Which he has a bit of a habit of doing. Toerag!)
Though we’d already begun to pick up lumps of mud on our boots. That really should have warned us of how heavy the going could become. But what the hell. When have I ever been deterred by previous unfortunate experiences?
We wouldn’t have had any mud on our boots, or indeed on any other bits of our clothing, had we turned right instead of left of course.
That was probably the first of our bad ideas.
We’d been loitering suspiciously outside my front garden gate (well, what’s left of the garden gate actually), undecided which way to go.
Mate asks “Which way shall we go then?”. Me, ever helpful and decisive, retorts “Up to you really. I’m easy”.
The choice was between turning right and into the village or left and into the fields, and wild rampant countryside.
This absorbing conversation carries on for a little while (to the undoubted amusement of any neighbours that may have happened to be watching) until finally, in unanimous indecision, we move off to the left.
Might have been something to do with my having muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Well, I quite fancy going that way”, pointing toward the end of the road that would take us toward the fields.
I’d quite forgotten that we’d had almost a week of fairly constant rainfall and that fields and tracks were likely to be… er… muddy. Not to put too fine a point on it.
And the thing with mud is, it sticks. Particularly to boots. And when you’ve built up half-a-ton of mud on your boots it can make walking a trifle heavy-going, especially if that walking is over uneven fields and trackways.
And this whole woefully deficient decision-making process had actually started in the kitchen where we’d been sat at the table supping coffee and speculating on whether we were just going to continue slobbing around or maybe get our backsides out and about for a little bit of a photo sesh.
But the weather sort of made up our minds for us. Like us, it was being a bit undecided. Breezy, but nice and warm in the sun. Really far too warm for a day in mid-November.
Yet there were also a few lumpy dark clouds floating around here and there that made it look as though more rain could be in the offing.
So either we delay and end up possibly scrubbing the entire day (photo-wise at least) or get out straight away and see what pics we could grab before the weather finally made up its mind what it intended to do, and maybe started chucking it down.
Which of course was one of the reasons mate had visited me in the first place. So that we could exercise our cameras.
And that was at the kitchen table. Where this little tale started as I recollect. Or rather, finished. Cos it seems I’ve somehow managed the telling hereof backwards. Hmm. Maybe that’s a reflection of the way my mind tends to work. Or possibly it isn’t.