Sunday, 6 November 2011
It's as easy as a walk in the park, right?
Today my wife and I went on a favourite walk of ours, through the river meadows and up onto the Downs near Milton, Oxfordshire. I know the British climate has a reputation for being damp, but rainfall has been rather low this year so the going was surprisingly not muddy and in bright sunlight it made for a very pleasant day.
Now you might ask why a favourite walk of ours passes near to the omnipresent bulk of Didcot Power Station and crosses the A34, a motorway in all but name. And you'd be right to ask, after all it's one of the more unprepossessing places in that part of the world. But hidden to a motorist's casual eye is a network of river meadows that have never seen cultivation, fertiliser or weedkiller, separated by clear chalk-fed streams and lush beds of watercress. In short, an oasis of wildlife in a sterile arable plain, albeit to the thunderous aural accompaniment of the trucks heading down to Southampton.
Sadly we were a bit late to take advantage of the blackberries or wild plums, the birds have had them all. So we did what 21st century foraging humans are supposed to do, we went to a very handy McDonalds by the A34.
It's almost an H.M. Bateman cartoon, isn't it. I can see it now, "The Man Who Admitted To Liking McDonald's In Polite Company", in which a bunch of 1930s-attired people spill their Fair Trade coffees in horror at such a transgression. And it's true, I've bought my share of Fair Trade coffees over the years, shopped local and eaten organic. But then I married someone from Over There, for whom the chain represents not a faceless corporation but childhood parties and so I too was sucked into the Web of Hamburger Shame. With extra special sauce, oh yeah, that special sauce!
You know you've hit rock bottom when you're poking discarded cardboard coffee cups with your foot to see whether the collect-six-get-a-free-coffee sticker has been removed. Only managed one today, from four cups. And a grazed hand, snapping off a dead stick to poke at cups in the leaves. Well, it provides a little bit of entertainment during the boring tarmac bit of the walk I guess.
Our walk took us by the road up the hill towards the Downs, by which there was plenty of discarded fast-food debris. For that I don't blame the restaurant, they have gone out of their way to provide litter bins with their logo on them some distance away from their site, instead I'm unimpressed with people who can't be bothered to stuff the debris back in the paper bag it came in, screw it up and bin it later. Still, I guess I've had more than one free coffee out of them over the years, so I'm hardly one to complain. Maybe I should go litter-picking in penance.
From the top of the Berkshire Downs you can see at least four counties on a good day. Our route didn't quite take us to the top, so make that two for us. The whole of the Vale of the White Horse spread out in front of us, quite a view. And in early November, one alight with autumn foliage, very pretty.
As you might imagine, we didn't walk in silence. We have plenty to talk about, as do most couples. And as you also might imagine, our conversation strayed onto matters of gender. It does have that annoying habit of popping up. My wife said something that gave me pause for thought, she said I should work towards transitioning. Bit of a showstopper moment, that. Her reasoning is that I'm not the happiest of people at the moment and thus neither is she, so there is little point in maintaining a situation in which we aren't happy. And she has a point, however as always I am not sure all that would be entailed in my transitioning would be good for her. If that were our route then I would want to embark upon it only once all that underlies it had been thoroughly explored with our various counselors, as I've gone into here ad infinitum in the past she is too important to me to do something that might hurt her.
So we arrived back to the Turbocharged Rollerskate, safely where we'd left it on a village side road, me with quite a lot to think about. It is encouraging that my wife is prepared to think in that direction because I think we're both aware that this is a downward slope. But while you might expect me to be celebrating such a revelation I'm doing the opposite, hanging back from the brink. Some clue as to why should be found in my description of a happy day walking with my wife.