Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Fear and A Field In England, part one

I’m walking, alone.  It’s late afternoon and the sun is out, I’m dressed for winter but surprised at the warmth;  I have to undo the buttons on my jacket.  Venture along a familiar route, through a field of horned sheep, over the stile, up past the ancient manor house and then I’m out in open farmland, beyond my usual course.  Haven’t been this far in years.

Huge flat fields stretch to the left and to the right, tiny distant trees pin the sky to the ground like tent pegs.  A well-worn path leads down into a dip, next to a wooded area, and I make my way towards it.  I stop for a moment first just to look around, take it all in: this beautiful, peaceful English countryside.  There is not a sound… not a single sound.  Nothing.  I’m only twenty minutes, half an hour maybe, from home,  but somehow it could be hours, days… my sense of being away from everything and everyone is such that it's almost overwhelming and very slightly unnerving.  As I proceed down the path getting nearer to the trees I can see, quite literally, for miles: not a soul around.

Or so I think.

I hear a rustling, some kind of surreptitious-sounding movement, coming from the large cluster of trees.   I can’t see much there, just the dark shapes of trunks and broken branches knitted together, the sun too low now to cast light on the ground between them nor on anything stirring amongst them.

It will be a fox.  Or a pair of woodpigeons, maybe.  Birds, yes - of course!  But still I stop.  Should I just keep walking… walking right towards and past those trees…past the noise...  or should I simply turn around now and head back? 

I’m too warm in this heavy jacket to run…. my feet are tired… no phone…  is it ridiculous that I’m even thinking like this (whatever ‘like this’  is?) when I’m only walking in a field in England on a lovely, sunny March afternoon?  Regardless, that’s what I do: turn around and retrace my steps, and I do so a little more briskly than before.  We’re just not used to being this alone, are we?  Just not used to the idea that if something were to ‘happen’, even if it was nothing more sinister than tripping over and spraining my ankle, out here I am helpless.   And then there are those darker thoughts… of what?... of the madman with his axe waiting behind a twisted elm?

Somewhere in the woods round here, only a few years ago, the body of man who’d gone missing was found; he’d hanged himself.  If you really mean it then this is the place to do it – I guess he hoped he’d never be located, never subject some stranger to the trauma of that macabre discovery (sadly he failed in that respect).  Not like those who hang themselves in their homes, or who throw themselves under trains.  This would be the place - to leave your body to the elements, let rain and sun and wind break you down and magpies peck at your remains, never witnessed by another human.  Just a fox.  Or a pair of woodpigeons, maybe.

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I don’t look over my shoulder… I just walk back a lot faster than I’d walked there, and try not to be freaked out when I catch a sudden glimpse of my shadow in close pursuit.

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Later in the evening I watch the film ‘A Field In England’.  I’ll tell you what I think of it next time!


16 comments:

  1. Oooooo, really suspenseful, C, loved it. I wonder if that is a female sensation... that sudden disappearance of the your composure in the midst of a rural idyll. I've felt it once or twice too.

    Can't wait to hear your opinion of A field in England either, won't share until I've read your thoughts but at the very least it inspired some great promotional artwork :)

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    1. Haha, perhaps it is a female thing... or just the result of an over-active imagination?!

      I'll be so interested too to hear your thoughts on the film. I'll follow this up soon as I get chance...

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  2. The Number One Son was dive-bombed by a crow on Saturday. It swooped down from above, tousled his hair, flew off and then watched him from a vantage point high above. Very Hithcockian.

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    1. Wow, what an experience. How did he feel about it?! Being a fan of crows I think I'd rather like that to happen to me, but I'd probably be pretty spooked at the time. I've heard stories of sparrowhawks occasionally taking a swoop at people with ginger hair! Must admit much as I admire that beautiful bird I wouldn't want to be at the end of its talons!

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  3. I used to get sent off for long walks by my Dad with only an ordinance survey map for company , it's something I'd never subject my Children to, though I was never scared by anything more than being on a footpath that crossed a field with a bull at the time.
    I'd recommend a dog or dogs, they give you a ridiculous sense of confidence plus you can yatter away to yourself without looking as if you are mad!

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    1. Sometimes I think we get more fearful with age! Maybe it's just that we're less naive? I agree about the dog thing - a lovely idea - I've often imagined that having one with me would definitely boost the confidence, and give an excuse to wander even further away from humankind...!

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    2. Plus when you do run into people ( with or without dogs) they are such great ice breakers and dog owners always have to talk while the requisite sniffing goes on!

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    3. I know what you mean. Even without a dog to walk with me I'm often on the receiving end of some inquisitive sniffing - I don't mind as long as it has four legs...

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  4. I regularly walk my old Hound around some of the more remote places round about here, nothing too far but remote enough that if something happened I would be really up the creek - unless my dog is going to rescue me but I'd not bank on it. So, I know exactly what you mean. When you let your thoughts run wild it can really cause a few palpitations. As for the axe man, I was walking through a forested area a few months ago and passed a very odd looking chap in great coat (it was hot) with an axe hanging from his belt. He walked past me and then stopped, seemingly stuck at a fork on the trail. he stood there for ages. I then hurried away without looking back again. Look forward to your thoughts on 'A Field In England' having watched it recently myself.

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    1. Oooh now that is weird. Would've scared the life out of me - I think you were wise to hurry away without looking back! Yes, look forward to discussing the film.

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  5. Help, I'm having flashbacks of old Emmerdale Farms and Worzel Gummidges! Oh, and that Pink Floyd song about 'the lunatic is in the grass... is in my head' etc.

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    1. Hi Rebecca, lovely to see you again, hope all is well.
      Indeed it is that very characterful English countryside thing, beautiful but sometimes brutal, steeped in history and legend, home to scarecrows and a TV soap or two!

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  6. We become less naive with age, which opens up the imagination to foreseeing worst case scenarios. As a non-dog owner walking alone, I sometimes feel suspicious eyes checking me over as I make my solitary way. It's something I'm acutely concious of as well. I'm a big, lumbering bloke and when I meet someone I don't know, walking on a remote track and who might feel somewhat uncomfortable as I approach, I probably over-compensate with my loud, cheery 'hi - lovely evening!'. I'm not sure if this puts them at ease or alarms them even more than they already were.

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    1. Yes, that's it, isn't it, we're so much more aware, as adults, of those worst case scenarios that occasionally make headline-grabbing news, rare though they are. Shame. I'm sure your the benevolence of your presence is instinctively felt by those you pass on your lone wanders and certainly the cheery greeting is a reassurance. But don't take your shirt off (!) - I was once walking on a hot Summer day and in the distance I could see a topless man heading my way. I made a hasty diversion! I'm sure he was harmless and merely hot but it's funny how the absence of his shirt made me feel quite differently about him than if he'd had it on!

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  7. Turn around, C, turn around - before it's too LATE . . .!

    Reading your piece brought back some memories about the house I grew up in, in the east end of Toronto. There was a wild wood right behind our backyard fence. I sometimes took a short cut home from school that way (usually at a good trot, I can tell you!)

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    1. I'm thinking of heading that way again later today... will I venture further, do I dare?!

      It sounds lovely to have a wild wood behind your fence and a great route for a short cut, but I know what you mean about the 'good trot'...

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