I started listening to the audiobook of The Likeness by Tana French, which was a bit dopey of me because I have not read In the Woods. Although The Likeness is not a direct sequel there have been enough references to the first book to send me out into the rain at lunchtime to buy a copy. In fact, I was glad of an excuse to go for a bit of a walk in the rain. I had boots, a raincoat and an umbrella and it wasn’t that cold, so the stroll was quite pleasant. I’ve been missing rain, so even urban rain will do and far from this grey day lowering my mood, once I was out in it I was oddly exuberant. I’d have liked to spend the afternoon wandering around, perhaps dropping into a cafe for some hot chocolate mid-afternoon.
The last time I really went walking in the rain was a couple of years ago. We got up one Sunday and rain was hurling itself against the windows in a way that demanded my attention and meant I couldn’t stay indoors. ‘Let’s go for a walk’, I said. So we did. I had some kind of anorak and waterproof trousers left over from my cycling days in Oxford, but Mike had really nothing light and waterproof at all. Nevertheless, we set out and decided to try a new, nearby state park.
Of course, we didn’t have a map and there were non available in the plastic holders near the entrance. Undeterred we set out, walking up rocky paths with small streams flowing down them, and occasionally pausing to dig drainage trenches by the largest puddles. It was fun and exhilarating, an extra edge to the sense of freedom that brisk movement brings after days of inactivity.
We chose paths at random, by colour (the blue trail) or by whether the first few feet looked to be going uphill or downhill. And so, we got lost. By this time we had been walking around long enough for the fun to have worn off a bit; it was definitely time to be heading back to the car. Except, where was the car? We walked on. Mike was soaked to the skin and I was chilled by the time we pitched up at a ‘You are here’ display that showed us that we were almost as far from the car as we could be. Our special sense of direction had led us in the wrong direction, by the most roundabout route, just about every time.
By this stage, we were cold, tired, hungry and wet. We had a lot of uphill to deal with to get us back, and it was a slog. The easy banter of the earlier part of the walk faded away and we trudged on in companionably grumpy silence. It became a matter of great importance to be dry and warm. Finally, we began to recognise paths that we had walked earlier; the puddles we had drained had built up again as the trenches filled with silt and leaves. This time, we left them alone. Within a short space of time we were not only dry and warm, after luxuriating in hot showers. We were also fed and clutching mugs of hot tea, pleasurably drowsy from the walk. And content.