Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Wimbledon Common and I

One of my first encounters with Wimbledon was when I was asked to go and work there. I worked for a coffee company which had kiosks in train stations all over the country so I would often get sent somewhere else for a day. I had been to a bar in Wimbledon before, years ago, with a friend, but I knew I wouldn’t still recognise anything.

I cycled there because I had recently decided I was going to exercise more and had purchased one of those little fold up bikes. I lived ten minutes away from Wimbledon Common and knew that all I had to do was get onto it from my end, cycle across it, emerge on the Wimbledon side and find the train station. Simple, right?

This is what actually happened. I got onto the Common and started cycling. I realised that my little fold up bike with its mini wheels was ill-equipped for stones and grass. I was thrown about all over the place, which I blame for loss of concentration. It was summer too so when I cycled through a patch of low hanging trees, there was all this nature-stuff all over the place and sticking to me, petals and bits of leaf and spiderwebs.

I had allowed an hour to make the journey and by the time I was forty minutes in and still on the Common, I started to worry. I just couldn’t find my way to the edge! I’d follow one certain direction in a straight line, figuring I would have to reach the outside soon, then I’d see something in another direction that I was sure must lead to Wimbledon so start off in a different direction. I felt like perhaps I had entered an enchanted land which was huge and inescapable. The Common was like the wardrobe which led into Narnia.

Eventually, after about an hour, by which point I am definitely going to be late to work and am becoming frantic, I emerged from the trees onto a large rugby playing field and a road on the other side of it. The edge of the Common! I had found it. There was a man walking his dog and I bumped over there on my bike and asked him directions to Wimbledon. He indicated back into the trees and said going round by road would take far too long. He gave me directions so I took a deep breath and plunged back in.

And I was lost again. I cycled round helplessly, looking for the tree stump or the split in the path that he had told me about. I couldn’t see any of it. I was lost. Again.

Eventually, I saw some flat grass and two people playing golf. I peddled over, panting and panicking and covered in nature. They pointed the route out to me and said I was near.

As I turned to go, one of them, a guy a similar age to me, said, “Wait a minute.”

Ah! thought I. This is how it is in the films. A damsel in distress, a young gallant man, rescues her and falls in love with her. His heart strings are pulled by her youthful naivete. He will ask me for my phone number now. Be cool. Be calm.

I turned back to him, expectantly.

“You’ve got a spider on your top.”

I looked down to find that he was right. I did indeed have a spider on my top, just by my shoulder. Acting as though I wasn’t even bothered, I brushed it off and hurried away, embarrassed.

I came to a little road and went into it, until a stern lady came out and made it clear that this was a private road and I needed to go that way, the other way, anything to get me out of her road.

After another half an hour or so of cycling and looking and feeling helpless, I eventually emerged and found my way to the station, exhausted and traumatised. Later that night, I finished my shift and decided to confront the Common again, face my fears head on. It took all of ten minutes for me to somehow, do a semi circle and end up coming off the Common a stone’s throw away from where I had entered it. I gave up on the Common then.

As a P.S., when I eventually decided to tackle Wimbledon Common again and figured out the route across it, it took fifteen minutes maximum, to get from end to end. On the day mentioned above, it took me two and a half hours.

Bugs on plants

It sounds like some kind of cocktail, doesn’t it? Or a euphemism for something very exciting. In actual fact, I am just going to show you some pictures of bugs on plants. But stick with me on this one. They’re good pictures, trust me. And they’ll get me geared up for doing more walks again when the weather warms up…

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See? I told you to stick with me and it would be fun. It was fun, right?

Disappointing

So far, this holiday has been quite disappointing.

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Yes, dinner was lovely, but where was the burglary from the till at gun point?

Yes, the garden is huge and very impressive but where was the old war hero, hiding out in the disused chicken coop because he’d been rejected by society?

Yes, there’s a lamppost at the end of the garden path which is EXACTLY like the one in the forest in Narnia and I got really excited, but where’s the old wardrobe that transports you there?

And yes, the weather was quite nice and sunny, but where was the exciting thunderstorm that we could all be a bit scared of?

And ok, the drive here was great fun and we all sung very loudly to silly pop songs from our childhoods but that is beside the point! Where was high speed car chase and the lorry crash?

Yes! I am in book heaven and there are more books than I can count in this lovely house, but where are the strange voodoo dolls and torture equipment?

There have been no crimes, no mysteries to solve, no forays into another world and no inexplicable natural phenomena.

So unfortunately, thus far, it’s just been loads of fun and really nice.

The stupidest day ever?

When I lived in Namibia, I did different things and one of the things I did was worked as a travel consultant for some friends at their travel business. A friend of mine had come out to visit and we took a ten day trip around the country together, which was part-holiday, part-educational for me, to visit places we sold holidays to. It was one the best, but most disaster-prone, holidays I’ve ever been on.

One day, we were staying in a little desert homestead out in the middle of nowhere. (The night before, by the way, I had been driving in the dark because we got lost, which is extremely dangerous, and had hit a small deer. Already the disasters have started.) We decided to go and see the sand dunes the next day. The highest in the world, they are, very exciting. We’d been before but it was amazing so we were excited to go again. We jumped in the car and sped off. You might think I mean, we got ready, got our stuff together, packed a little bag, got in the car and drove there. No. What I literally mean is, ‘We jumped in the car and sped off.’

We got to the reserve and went into the little hut to get our permits to drive in. We had hardly any money between us and no ID. Of course, you need ID and money to get your permit. So we cobbled together enough for the entrance and managed to just talk the lady into letting us both in on the strength of my bank card! Ridiculous. It was just a card with a name on. I didn’t have anything else on me to prove whether I was the person who’s name was on the card or anything!

So we’re in, phew, we won’t be that stupid again. Never again. no, not us. We’ve learned our lesson. We get to the car park and park up. There’s a shuttle service out to the dunes. Which costs money. Of which we have almost none. We gingerly approach the shuttle driver man and present our measly few coins, not enough to cover the cost of taking one of us. I say I am a travel consultant and travelling around, experiencing Namibia, etc blah blah, you can imagine the nonsense I was talking. And talk ourselves onto the shuttle bus!! Great, we’re in! Phew, enough stupidity for today, we say to each other, rolling our eyes, and thinking how silly we are.

We arrive at the dunes. We can’t wait to climb Big Daddy, as the biggest one is affectionately known. We kick off our shoes and socks and dive in. Climbing it is taking forever, we’re hot and exhausted. I can feel my skin prickling in the burning sun, and that’s when I realise it, we didn’t bring any suncream! We came into the desert, on a burning hot day, and we didn’t bring any suncream. I’m also massively thirsty…. Well if we didn’t bring anything else with us, why would we have brought water?

Let’s get this straight. We’ve come to a reserve that you have to buy permits to enter. Which has a shuttle bus service. In the desert. In the morning sun. Without any money, ID, water or suncream. Ok. Are you with me? So you see what I mean about ‘We jumped in the car and sped off.’ Four stupid points to us.

We press on, reach the top of the sand dune, wow, amazing. Let’s jump down! This is SUCH good fun. Swimming in it, rolling, hilarious. I’m so at one with the world and with nature. I just love life so much. This is amazing. Everything’s amazing. Ahhh!

We get to the bottom, walk to the shuttle bus, sit in the back, sand is in every possible space, we laugh and joke about what a great time we’ve had. I’m digging my hands in my pockets, laughing about how they’re full of sand, and that’s when I realise it… my bank card isn’t in my pocket anymore…. it’s in that MASSIVE sand dune. It’s buried in the biggest sand dune in the world, that took me an hour to climb, and of course I wouldn’t have any idea which exact bit I was on. Five stupid points. I’m gathering them at an alarming rate.

Then my friend says to me, “Have you got the car keys?”

And I just knew.

I didn’t even put my hand in my pocket to check. I just knew. And that’s when I uttered the infamous words that she still reminds me of to this day: “We’ll deal with it when we get there.” And then I looked around at the lovely view and pretended it wasn’t happening. We’d be fine, my young confident self thought. It would alllll be fiiiiine.

We managed to get into the car easily. It was old enough that someone with the same make of car just put their key in and opened it! Then he tried his key in the ignition and it started! How lucky. You could take the key out and it would still run so I was ready to drive off straight away and head for the nearest town to get a new key fitted but the man wanted to check something. He turned off the engine. Then it wouldn’t start again. The steering wheel had locked too.

The shuttle bus drivers told us not to worry, they knew how to hot wire a car (comforting thought) and would just take off the casing around the steering wheel and get it started that way. Until no-one had the right shape screw driver. It was rapidly turning into a nightmare. We were stuck in the dessert with no money, no ID, no water, no suncream, no keys, no bank card, and a car we couldn’t start. Eventually some French tourists drove in and had the right shape screw driver and the bus drivers did their thing and showed me how to start it without the keys. I just needed something which had the right shape and I could start it up. Great. We were off.

The next day, nearing a town where we could get it all fixed, I stopped off for petrol. We couldn’t get into the petrol tank, could we? Because we didn’t have the keys. I also didn’t have a bank card to withdraw any money to pay for it. Thankfully, my nice friend put her bank account at our disposal for the remainder of the trip as I was financially stranded. A man from the garage came with a massive crow bar and levered the cap open so we could fill it. As we were getting ready to go, I put my house key into the dodgy unhooked ignition on the car, and the little piece of plastic in the barrel broke……..

I thought I was going to lose it. I felt like lying on the ground in the dessert and waiting for hyenas and lions to come and fight over my dried-up, un-watered, un-suncreamed body. I forget how we made it to the next town, I think the madness settled in and I blacked out for a day or two.

PS 20 days till exams. Still on Theft.

What runs through my head when I go for a walk

Ok, I’m going to go for a walk now. O but maybe it’s too cold. Shall I read my book for a bit longer? No, go for a walk. But, erm, my comfy trousers for walking in aren’t washed. Ok, Laura, just wear different trousers.

Right, I’m out! I’m out of the house. I’m off. Uphill. I’ve forgotten my earphones, which is a disaster, I can’t listen to any music. Just keep going, it’s not that big a problem. Why are these children getting in my way? Can’t they see I’m walking?

I’m a bit bored now. It’s only been three and a half minutes, just get to the river then walk home. I don’t want to. Just do it. Ok then. I’m warming up actually, this is quite nice. My legs are a bit bored of going uphill though. Where’s the river? It’s so far! I can’t be bothered! I think I’ve done long enough now. Ten minutes is more than enough! Yeh, it’ll be fine, I need to go home and study anyway.

O look! There’s the river! It’s so pretty. Aaaaahh, I’m going to at least get to the river. O look how the sun reflects off the river. I’m going to walk along it for a while. I love walking next to the river. I love walking. Look at the lovely children, I’ll just stop to let them pass. I wonder if I could walk alllll day? I could go on a walking holiday somewhere! Trek a mountain range or something. I’d be so happy. Could I give up my job and just walk all day, every day? Just keep going next to the river for the whole day and see where I end up, and get the train home or something? Let me take a few pictures, what a lovely view. Quickly post them onto Facebook so people think I’m like one of those naturey people who’s at one with the earth and loves exercising.

I’ll walk to the next bridge I reckon, cross it, then walk back. That’ll be nice. Ah, it’s so lovely outside. Get rid of the jumper because I’m quite warm now. Um, where’s the next bridge actually? I’ve been going for ages and I can’t even see it. Hm. I can’t turn back, that’s like admitting defeat. Must. Keep. Going. It’s actually the afternoon now, omygoodness I might die on this walk. It’s been hours now! I’ll probably be found by another walker in a few months time, in a heap at the side of the path, exhausted and surviving off scraps that birds and badgers have brought me to keep me alive.

That’s it. I’m calling someone who knows the river better than me. Sure enough, they confirm that the next bridge is probably another half hour walk away. But I can’t turn back, that’s out of the question. I’ve reached the bridge. Ugh. Cross it. Now have to walk the whole distance back again! This is the worst walk I’ve ever been on! I hate walking.

Ok, I’m walking back, speed up a bit, it’s homeward bound. It will be ok. My legs are extremely bored by now. It doesn’t seem too far on the way back actually. There’s the bridge near home! Woop! I’m close. Ahhhh, over the bridge and bye bye river, I’m off home for a much needed cup of tea. I can slow to a stroll now. Omygoodness, I’ve been out for almost FIVE hours! Oops. Well, it’ll be fine, the study isn’t going anywhere. I feel quite good actually, I’m not in that much of a rush to get home. What a lovely day and what a lovely walk. That was sooo nice. I really enjoyed that. Mmmmm, time for a cup of tea.