Monday, September 27, 2010


When going for a walk becomes a trial of the soul.....

As the evenings draw in, and the those long, hot summers nights become nothing more than just a distant memory, we find that those merry jaunts amongst other upbeat evening strollers enjoying the balmy late sunshine, have been replaced by a whole new mysterious type of experience where each and every person you encounter is shrouded in mystery, and paranoia is at an all time high. Evening stroll etiquette at this time of year is something that we all have our ideas on but unfortunately some people do not adhere to it as strictly as others.

During the summer 'the rules of the path' aren't as in depth or circuitous as when the darker seasons creep their way unrelentingly into our lives, jovial walkers will greet each other with the same enthusiasm on their nineteenth way round as they did on their first, and will endeavour to fill those few seconds when they cross each other paths with any inane commment that may come to mind, such is the feel good factor during the heady seasons. They may start off with a cursory nod which will have progressed to a 'lovely evening now' by the third time round, and once the evenings walk has been completed they've managed to cram in enough conversation in those bite sized chats to consider each other walking buddies for life. Dogs will happily sniff each others nether regions without fear of reprisal, children will run wild and free, groups of baying youths will be dismissed as 'lovable scamps' and all in all there is an almost bohemian spirit to proceedings with the general consensus being, it doesn't get better than this. However once the darkness claims us, things change in an almost inexplicable manner.

To even motivate yourself to get up off the couch on a chilly wintry evening is an achievement in itself it has to be said, cosy living room, a piping hot plate of carb heavy dinner slowly digesting away, Champions League football back on the telly, why on earth would you want to leave this safe haven and venture out into a world of misery and danger where the only hope of salvation is the fruitless pursuit of one of those natural highs that you've been reading so much about. Staying indoors and protecting yourself from frostbite seems all the high that anyone could ever need, but yet you somehow find yourself getting your winter uniform and preparing yourself military style for the unseen threat that lurks at the other side of your front door. But once you've become attired in wooly garments from head to toe and braved the initial blast of the vindictive wind which permeates your entire body and actually stops your heart in it's tracks for a nanosecond, you begin to quite enjoy yourself as you head to the walkway of your choice determined to stock up on enough endorphins to see you through the night.

The first problem that you'll invariably encounter on a winters stroll is just how deserted things are, long gone are the scores of merry marchers and in their place are a few hardy souls interspersed with remarkably unbeat rotund types, who seem to have been walking these same paths for eternity and if anything have put on weight rather than lost it. A lone walker in this environment will always be quite conspicuous and regardless of how well mannered a person you are, you are essentially a menace to society and will be viewed and treated as such. Having found myself in this scenario on many an occasion, and considering myself a valuable addition to all society and certainly not a menacing presence in any shape or form, it's quite alarming how my own paranoia allows to me to begin to believe that I may indeed be someone to be feared and avoided at all costs. The lengths and measures that I will go to to ensure that I don't have to encounter other walkers and run the risk of being pepper sprayed for saying hello, are in retrospect quite bizarre but until you've run the gauntlet of an evening solo stroll then you can't really begin to understand the inner turmoil that goes with it.

The most annoying thing is when you get stuck walking behind someone who's going at a similar pace to yourself, the first option available is to continue at your normal walking speed and risk the person ahead you imagining themselves in a low budget horror film as you steadily keep pace with them, all the while fretting that you're scaring the shit out of them and that they're suddenly going to break into a sprint not stopping until they reach the nearest police station. Alternatively you can choose to slow right down allowing them to get a reasonable distance ahead before you resume walking at your normal speed, the problem with this though is it leaves you open to being overtaken by someone else and then you're right back to square one again. Another option, and the one I usually choose, is to put the pedal to the metal and attempt to overtake the person ahead. This can be difficult though as sometimes you can underestimate the pace of the walker ahead, you can find yourself running out of gas as you approach them resulting in you walking alongside your foe until you finally manage to forge ahead sweat pissing out of you and your heart ready to explode with the strain of it all.

This may seem like extreme and somewhat unnecessary behaviour, but how many times have you been out for a walk and suddenly become aware of some heavy footsteps trudging incessantly behind you? You're immediate thought is to think of all the bad things you've done in your life and quickly ask God for forgiveness, throwing in a helpless plea for salvation from this homicidal lunatic who any second now is going to enact an execution of unspeakable violence on your tortured soul. Then the rational part of your psyche kicks in and you laugh at yourself for being so foolish, dismissing your would be assailant as just another soldier out facing the harsh conditions to get his endorphin fix. To reassure yourself you chance a rapid glance backwards to see just what kind of monstrosity is now not only making as much noise with his feet as a herd of restless buffalo, but can now be heard breathing like an asthmatic pensioner at a swingers party. But instead of reassurance you're met with ever more blind panic as a dark, sullen figure that seemingly doesn't possess a face or any redeemable human features, is stalking you down with a bloodlust that can only be sated by the ritual mutilation of a 31 year old male weighing in at 12 ½ stone and a height of just over 6 foot. However salvation is afoot with the almost oasis like presence of a glowing orange neon light which for all intents and purposes could be the gates of heaven, with God willingly urging to come hither and take refuge in his kitchen. As you reach the radius of the light and bask in it's glow, you find the strength to turn to face your attacker only to find that he's no longer there. Chances are he realised that he was slowly but surely freaking out the demented idiot walking in front of him so took the safe option and turned for home at an earlier junction, chuckling to himself at the thoughts of telling his wife about the 'fuckin eejit' he saw out on his walk that evening.

So you see going for a walk at this time of year is fraught with danger, real or otherwise, and it takes great inner strength to emerge unscathed, both physically and psychologically, from an evenings carousel. I'd imagine most sane people can go out for a walk at night and not give a seconds thought to stuff like this but there's surely a few that share these same nightly neuroses as I. If you're ever misfortunate enough to encounter me on a night out walking please be aware that I mean you no harm and for God's sake if I try to pass you out just leave me fuckin do it will you!

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