First confession – when I thought of the title of this blog I had in my head Nightclubbing by Iggy Pop which I thought would be pretty cool. However a swift check on google and YouTube reveals that I really meant Me and my girl (nightclubbing) …by David Essex. For those of you tou young or cool to remember, David Essex was a proto-David Hasselhof kind of hunk.
Anyway, having scraped off any residue of cool that I may have accidentally stepped in, here’s the blog entry.
A couple of weeks ago Felix did an all-night walk from Oxford to Reading, some 35 miles or so door to door. She came back with tales of owls, badgers, teenagers and other creatures of the night. I was unable to join her on that trip because it was a Monday night so we went for a repeat performance this Friday evening.
It gave me the opportunity to try out my new rucksack so I filled it with far more stuff than I needed to put a bit of weight in it, and off we went to catch the train to Oxford. Once at Oxford we had a romantic 2pc chicken and chips dinner (I know how to treat a girl) and then set off south down the Thames path just after 9:30pm.
After about an hour or so we veered off of the Thames at Sandford Lock and headed out across fields and through woodland. There was no moon on Friday night and no streetlights in the fields, so I found the going a bit tricky. Felix it turns out has bat-vision and used her ultrasonic clicking to navigate us under a pylon and through the darkest copse to… …an illegal rave!! Yaaay. This wasn’t here last time she went this way, but it added to the surreal nature of the walk, and the wildlife seemed quite happy with a barn owl making some interesting screeches to The Prodigy. As we left it looked as if the party might be brought to a premature end or a new high point as 30 or so cows trundled towards the field!
Felix was trying out her new recording equipment for a radio show she is putting together and I hope she’ll post the raving owl sounds up here shortly.
It is amazing how much you *can* see in the dark once your eyes become accustomed. Many leaves and flowers stand out quite brightly with the notable exception of nettles, brambles and thistles, all of which like to lurk just over the edge of a barely distinguishable footpath. Shorts seemed like such a good idea at the time, and although I pulled my 1000-mile socks (amazing) up high they offered little protection.
The walk continued and we zigzagged across the A4074 a few times which is the inspiration behind Felix’s radio show. She has regularly commuted between Oxford and Reading on this road for several years and realised she knew very little about any of the points inbetween. I can’t give too much detail about the route I’m afraid because it was mostly across fields and one dark field with silhouettes of horses, cows, lions, is pretty much like another. I have no idea whether Felix really knew where she was going or just fronted the whole thing out, but she strode forth with me stumbling in her wake.
Our first human contact came just outside Benson where the youth were gathered as a welcoming committee for us. Another milestone reached as I got heckled for having my socks pulled up nice and high. Brilliant, I am my Dad. I could have explained about the thistles but frankly I don’t think they were terribly interested in a function over fashion discussion
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Felix. I have never walked with anybody who takes the unwanted attention of flies and bugs so personally. Poor flies, not so much swept away with a sweep of a hand as verbally waterboarded with an unending torrent of abuse! They do love her though Felix the fly magnet, as this picture shows.
The world was slowly waking up: 2 or 3 anglers were setting up, and a goose made a graceful landing onto the water. The walk into Wallingford was beautiful as the dawn chorus started. We listend for ages to this beautiful conversation between two birds hidden in the bushes by the river’s edge. The variety of song and the sense of dialogue was magical.
Just past Wallingford we crossed a poppy field. There were no flowers but the naked poppy heads were a morning glory of their own! We encountered a deer who eyed us carefully for a few minutes before leaping off through the fields with a friend. Just afterwards we saw two hares trot down the road and then race across a field past grazing sheep. Hares are odd creatures aren’t they? So much wilder and more aloof than rabbits.
Cars started appearing on the roads and people were walking their dogs as we approached Mapledurham. We met a gorgeous black labrador puppy as we crossed a barley field, and found ourselves in a field that was absolutely fizzing with life amongst the long grass. So many bees, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles… all too much for a sound artist so I lay down whilst Felix recorded.
The rest of the walk is fortunately fading from my mind. My feet hurt, my right knee ached, I was tired, hungy, thirsty, hot, covered in spider threads, Felix was babbling incoherently, my rucksack was squeaking, grrrrrr… Anyway, a quick bath and 6 hours sleep later all was good in the world again. All I need now is a new knee!
And so the second confession of this post – there is NO way I would have done the walk on my own as Felix did. I am full of admiration for her determination and courage. It offers some small comfort to a mere mortal such as myself that she still occasionally gets beaten by the little things – like midges and wind on a microphone!