Freedom

Organised walking equates to purgatory for me.  The very thought of being shepherded along for several miles with a bunch of people I don’t know from Adam brings me out in a cold panicky sweat.  Harsh I know.  In my defence though, I’m not being judgemental without having given it a go; I did once join the Ramblers Association and spent a good few sessions stepping out in the English countryside with other RA members.

One weekend we embarked on a long hike knowing that the weather forecast was dreadful.  Everyone had geared up for it but it wasn’t enough.  When it came the rain was torrential, flooding the roads and lanes.  We were wading ankle deep in it and there was nowhere to shelter from it.  I can only speak for myself – the cold water forced itself into any gap and every seam of clothing, until I was wet through to my skin.  We were too far along the route to go back and a very long way from the end of it.  I had travelled with two friends to join this walk, and once we made it back to the car the only solution was stripping down to my underwear, wringing out the water from my clothes, and journeying home wearing very little, with the car heater blasting hot air at us. As I recall it was a completely miserable experience.  Had this been a walk just for the three of us, we never would have commenced it considering the grim weather threat; we would probably have gone to the cinema instead.  But organised is organised and come hell or high water the plan had to go ahead.

Similarly, I remember a walk across soaking wet bean fields; it had poured with rain all day then faired up later on and the sun was shining.  It was a beautiful summer evening.  The serious walkers among us wore waterproof attire and sturdy boots.  The beans were shoulder high.  There was one middle aged gentleman new to the RA group that night and he turned up in suit trousers, a leather jacket and shiny black lace up shoes.   Most incredibly though, he was wearing white socks.  I could not look the poor chap in the eyes when we all sat down to enjoy a well-deserved drink in a local pub at the end of the walk. He was wet through, his legs blathered in mud and his shiny shoes wrecked.

These organised walks always took place in stunningly beautiful countryside, except for the occasional bean field.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to appreciate much of it.  I quickly learned that the whole point of the Ramblers Association for most participants is the social side of it.  They want to chinwag the whole way along.  And it’s very difficult to switch off when you’re bombarded with someone’s life story and the occasional question; you have to pay attention.  At the expense of the view.  And even when you purposely dawdle and drop to the rear of the group to give yourself a break from the incessant chattering, there’s the brave old soldier who’s volunteered to be the rear guard waiting there to round you up and herd you along.

Out front is no better either.  Up at the head of any train of walkers you’ll always find the wise guy of walking, the one who’s done a million miles, who knows every Ordnance Survey Map route in the county, and in the surrounding counties too.  And he can’t wait to bore you to death with the details.  And every so often, this clever clogs makes everyone stop and wait until the rest of the slow coaches have caught up, all the while delivering his monologue.  There really is no escape.

I have an elderly aunt who is suspicious of any sort of group activity – it reminds her of the 1930’s and Hitler’s brownshirts.  My father was the same; he belonged to the Young Farmers Association as a teenager, but nothing else after that.  I think I must have inherited this odd family trait, because as I’ve grown older I have developed a real aversion to organised groups and clubs.

It’s much better to walk with close friends I think, with people who understand you, and you understand them too.  They know to pipe down when you’re simply drinking in the view.  They get it when you stop to examine freshly sprung oak leaves.  Or tiny wild field pansies.  But even then, it feels as if you’re stretching their patience.  For absolute perfection you have to walk alone.

So now I do.  And it makes complete sense.  I can race up hills just for the fun of it, and amble across sheep meadows trying to get as close as I can to the stinky jittery bundles of wool, before they become alarmed and make a run for it.  I can wander aimlessly through pine forests with my eyes looking upward, savouring the woodland scent; I can crawl through undergrowth and hedges to find out what’s beyond.

May’s walking has been particularly good, but then May is my favourite month of the year, when every living thing is bursting out at the seams.  Mother Nature has laid on a fabulous tumbling profusion of greenery and a stunning riot of colour wherever one looks.  The buzz of insects and multi-noted birdsong are a joyful musical accompaniment, and the pungent aroma emanating from the lush vegetation warmed in the spring sunshine dizzies my senses and makes me glad to be alive.  This is freedom.

How do you feel about organised group activities?

All text and photographs © Suzy Barker 2016 and they may not be used elsewhere
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40 thoughts on “Freedom

  1. You pose a great question. I’m pretty sociable and love get-together’s, small parties, intimate dinner parties and family parties and weddings. But–as extroverted as I may seem outwardly, I am NOT one for group activities. I like to be by myself or with one of my kids or Bonaparte when I’m being active. When co-workers at past jobs tried to organize trips to NYC to see a play or any other activity, I always opted not to take part. I just don’t want to be forced into being with people that I don’t choose to be with. I think that’s why I’ll never go on a cruise. The thought of being out at sea with a ton of people I don’t know and in a confined space would drive me nuts.

    I like this post a lot!!! Thanks for some good food for thought and a great read!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. This made me smile. I can just picture the group walking experience! I think you’re very brave to join in the first place! I am useless at group activities. Like you, I prefer to enjoy the scenery and switch off from chatter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s beginning to look a lot like a whitewash. Surely there must be someone reading this who likes to do stuff “with company”? Or is it that I have inadvertently got “cosy” with my own type on WordPress? How very disconcerting!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. O dear, I’m a terrible joiner. For years I would join groups and then be appalled at the group think, the silly politics. A few years ago after a failed go at the neighborhood garden club, I sat my neighbor down and gave her full permission to punch me in the face if I ever mentioned joining anything again!
    Good for you and your independent spunk. Great photos!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Haha I think I’m on the same boat as you! I don’t particularly love organized activities… I like impromptu fun better 🙂 I am not anti-social… I love meeting people, new people even… But just not with rules that govern how we must spend our time 😉 well honestly… These organized activities make me slightly nervous and I end up being clumsy cluts!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. May is glorious, isn’t it? 🙂 A bit moody at times, but that’s ok.
    I walk with a group of oldies and you’re right- it is social. But they humour me and let me wander off and catch up whenever. And they’re nice folks. Ramblers, I haven’t tried, but I do like walking on my own. Me and the camera, that is 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As a writer, I think it is inherent to my nature – our nature – to want to be alone much of the time. You might pull off writing in a crowd, but I certainly cannot. I must be locked away with my keys and thoughts, just pecking and pecking. When I take a walk I don’t even want anyone to be able to see me, much less walk with me.

    Tim

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I did one such walk before the disability. It was called “The Walk From Hunger”. Yes, I walked 26 miles to hopefully stop someone from starving. It was all in the city with water stands at the parks that were strewed along the way. Walking on cement sidewalks and pavement of streets in temperatures in the high 80sF does hurt after a while. Still, I’m glad I did it. It made me feel I was part of the community. Now that it’s difficult for me to walk three city blocks, it’s great to look back and remember those days when my feet were my first choice of transportation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 26 miles is a very, very long walk – a marathon in fact! I’ve never walked that far in one go in one day. Well done you. And for such a good cause too. And I’m sorry you no longer can do that. Thank you for contributing Glynis. Best regards

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, I am definitely not one to do things with a group. I am too independent. At seems there are more like me out there from the comments. It seems to me a group walk would spoil the effects of nature for one. So enjoy your solo walks and share more beautiful photos. You are fortunate to have wonderful places to walk!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I like your sense of humor and smiled while reading this post. One of my co-workers once gave me a small stuffed animal that wore a badge that said ‘Forced Socialization” with a big black line across it. Both he and I hated it when we were forced to go to large group meetings to ‘discuss’ some form of the business, when really, we all made better decisions by ourselves. No, I don’t like walking with groups either and appreciated your description of your experiences doing so. Give me one good friend and miles on a walking path by the Bay or in the forest, and I’m a happy walker.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, I can relate to forced socialising with co-workers. There have been a fair few cringe-worthy sales meetings in my own work experience. They were a great motivator to me getting out of there and running my own business! I really like the idea of the animal with the badge your colleague gave you – humour is essential in those circumstances. Thank you for your input. I very much appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For the longest time I kept that stuffed ‘forced socialization’ guy on top of my computer. Now both my colleague and I work for ourselves (as you do) and we can CHOOSE our socializations, thank you very much. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I get it. I enjoy solitary walking and find I write in my head as I walk. If it’s worth saving at the moment, I’m a bit ashamed to say I pull out my phone, but only momentarily, so I can speak into my note section and write the thoughts worth writing. I’ve written quite a few blog beginnings on these walks. I look forward to reading more from you. Enjoy your walks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I talk into my phone whilst walking as well. It’s a great way to capture thoughts as they arise. And so much easier than carrying paper and pencil around. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment – thank you. And welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

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