My heart was practically tachycardic as I entered the blackness. They (if they were there) could easily see me nipping off-path and slipping between the large conifers edging the park into the expanse of darkness beyond. I was banking on no one of cruel intention waiting for me there. All I wanted to do was to be able to see the full moon undiluted by surburbia's glow.
I've been walking regularly after work since last August, and regularly at night since the clocks went back in October. (Fitbit is my master, watching my steps Big Brother-style and reporting me back to my social dashboard.) Apart from the occasional jogger or convenience store shopper, the pavements are often empty; all your streets in B14 and B30 are belong to me, claimed under the daily tread of my orthotic boots.
My night routes are circular, walked this way then that, and taking in a two-for-£1 chocolate shop, or maybe just some bread and milk. There are peaks en route where I can see all the way into the city, and troughs where I play higher-bpm 80s disco classics (yes!) to help pick up some speed.
I keep to the main roads so that I can safely plug into music, comfortable in the bright glow of street lights and passing traffic. Believe me, I'm not much of a risk-taker. A solo female walking into a park alone at night is not something I'd normally recommend.
But recently, I've been drawn to documentaries, talks, books, magazines and articles about explorers. There was a fantastic Royal Geographical Society talk in Keswick by Tim Jarvis, who recreated Shackleton's 1916 Antarctic expedition. A birthday book on Walking the Himalayas; another by Cheryl Strayed on walking the Pacific Crest Trail. An article about British adventurer Alastair Humpheys. A viewing of Maidentrip on Netflix, in which 15-year-old Laura Dekker sailed solo around the world. And a purchase of Microadventures, for adventures that are 'close to home and easy on your pocket'.
So I guess I've been fuelling up… and for the first time in years, since my own solo travels in Asia, I felt the desire for adventure. Microadventures are small-scale by nature but they seem big when you're stuck in a nice fat comfort zone. All I wanted to do was pop into a dark-enough zone to experience the full moon and see its contours clearly.
Adventurers take calculated risks when embarking on an expedition and prepare for the worst. My calculation was that no one worse than a dog walker would be wandering the local park at night. My preparation was to turn off my music, tune in my ears, head for the clear viz of a wide expanse of park and scout the area as my eyes adjusted. If the worst was to happen, the plan was simple: run like the clappers.
By the time I left the wide well-lit path on Vicarage Road, I was on full alert, spider senses tingling, adrenaline-ready to fight or run. The moon may have got less attention because of my nerves… but it was also more beautiful because I felt closer to it. Here it is by the way:
Unsurprisingly (when you read the stats on how/when attacks on women happen) there was no random stranger ready to pounce in the dark. And to be honest, it felt good as a woman not to live in fear for five f*cking minutes of the day/week/month. More than good, it was exhilarating.
So there are likely to be more #microadventures. I have been inspired to take more (calculated) risks. It is the human condition after all. Taking risks makes us feel more alive, and you don't have to climb El Capitan to do it. Anyone want to join me next full moon?
Wot no takers?