COLUMN: October 19, 2017

park
A park with a number of leaves on the ground

I DECIDED to go for a walk in an attempt to take advantage of the last bit of sun this year had to offer. An actual hurricane was on its way the following day, and I thought it would be nice to see where the trees were before they were blown over.

There was a destination in mind – a park I had last visited several years ago – but no route. All I had was a vague sense of the direction in which I would have to walk.

I pulled on a coat, looked in a mirror, and realised that I would have to do more to look less “prime suspect for any crimes that might have occurred in the vicinity”.

The trouble is that I have a shifty look about me. Even in the most benign of circumstances, I look as if I am scoping out the exits. If you combine that with the coat I was considering wearing, which is great if there is a sudden shower, but in every other circumstance looks designed for nefarious purposes, then you can see my difficulty.

I swapped my coat for something less practical. Yes, I might have been caught in the rain, but at least I would not look like “a lone man in a park”. If the past week has taught me anything, it is that women have enough trouble with actual sex pests; they don’t need me to make them uncomfortable too.

I started out on my journey, and immediately pulled out my phone in order to check the route. Then I told myself: “No, you are a human being who for the first 38 years of his life had nothing to direct him save an A-Z and some persistence.”

The persistence is important. Some people are born with a sense of direction. I need a map to get to my kitchen, and even then I’m probably holding it upside down. But if you persist, eventually you reach your destination. It just means that you visit quite a lot of locations beforehand.

And, besides, what if it took a long time? There was a pub/restaurant in the grounds of the park. I could get my tea there. This was going to be great.

It was not long before I was in territory I vaguely knew, and not long after that I was in alien territory. This is because whenever I visited this park, I approached it from my previous home. I’d have had to have got very lost indeed to have come this way. And now, coincidentally, that is what I was.

I thought about my phone again. “No,” I said. “You’re going to ask somebody for directions.” But there was nobody about. It was Sunday afternoon. I was on a road, but I hadn’t seen a pedestrian for ages. The only people I saw were occasional drivers, and jumping into the road to flag somebody down to ask where a park might be is not in my skill set.

And then, as I walked past the walled golf course, in the distance I saw him. A respectable looking man in his forties, a man who had also spent time finding an appropriate coat, walking with purpose. Surely he would know.

I quickened my pace towards him, more than ready for a nice tea. I noted a pile of three car tyres incongruously piled up against the wall of the golf course, but thought little of it.

He reached the tyres before me, but, instead of walking by them, he turned towards the wall, stepped on them, and tried to climb over the wall.

He dealt with the task much as I would, flailing, kicking away the top tyre into the road, presenting his bottom to spectators, as he tried to pull his body over. I briefly considered assisting him, but he was clearly up to no good, so I walked by, allowing him to be “prime suspect for any crimes that might have occurred in the vicinity”.

Persistence paid off. Five minutes later I was walking through the gates of the park. And the only other people there were dog walkers. I could totally blend in as Man Who Is Looking For His Dog. “Krypto!” I shouted. “Come on, boy!”

And so I headed finally to the pub. An aluminium fence surrounded it. “Closed For Refurbishment”, a sign said. “We Apologise For The Inconvenience.”

I suppose I would have known had I looked on my phone.

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