Even in this crowded country you don’t have to walk for very long to feel cut off from the reach of CCTV and the great swarming human ant colony.
A steep downhill path through Baron’s Wood connects two of my lunchtime lanes. Usually this path is a mudslide so walking it is impractical in office clothes, but on Tuesday everything was so frozen that I thought I’d give it a go. On top of the hard mud was a thick layer of untouched snow and tiny flakes were still falling. The wood was silent, leafless and had that strange perspective that comes from the contrast of dark branches covered in bright white snow. About halfway through the wood I suddenly felt a spine-shiver of extreme isolation. Tree stumps glimpsed in the middle-distance morphed momentarily into human shapes. In other words, I got the willies.
The willies soon passed but like most people I rather enjoy getting them, so yesterday I decided to walk through the wood again. There was another fresh layer of snow but this time, running down the hill and more or less following the path, was a single set of tracks made by a fox or possibly a small domestic dog off for a sneaky solo walk. I followed the tracks carefully, using them to guide me through the uneven ground to help reduce the risk of twisting an ankle. My concentration on the tracks prevented me from getting the willies, but when I looked back up the hill it occurred to me that at that moment I was the only person in the entire unimaginable vastness of space and time who knew that a fox or possibly a small dog had stepped in those spots that morning. Furthermore, any person or persons making the walk after me would see my size 10 footmarks mingled in with the pawprints and would likely bet their bottom dollar that the tracks were made by a man taking his dog for a walk. But, ha ha, they would be quite, quite wrong about that, because the tracks were made by a fox or possibly a small solo dog and by me at completely different times of day, so hard lines and put that in your pipe and smoke it you bloody know-it-all presuming fools!