Friday 12 March 2021

A Bit Blowy...


What idiot is going to be plodding the beach on a day like this?

Twice in the last three days I've taken my exercise walk on - and adjacent to - the local beach. On Wednesday my birdy highlight was...let's see...oh yes, a Snipe. A single Snipe flushed from somewhere I wouldn't have expected. This afternoon's was better; it was a pair of Pintails, maybe the same pair that I saw on Monday morning. They were dead jumpy, and the moment they spotted me flew off to the far end of the Mere. I was not the slightest bit bothered by the meagre return for my shingle-slogging efforts, because conditions were dire on both occasions, and to be honest the getting out and walking was more important than the birds. On Wednesday the air was full of drizzle and spray, and busting along at about 40mph; this afternoon was equally blowy, and I got caught in a downpour. So, totally soaked both times.

This photo was taken from the same spot and just moments after the one above, but facing the other way. In both cases a bit of zoom compresses the perspective and adds a nice touch of drama.

On Wednesday I had the beach to myself. Ditto this afternoon. Completely alone. Which is how I like it. Regular readers will know already that I like a bit of solitude. However, when I got home I was reminded how fortunate I am to be able to indulge this preference whenever and wherever I like. Waiting for me on Twitter was this...

Reading Lucy McRobert's article took me back 30 years or more...

When we lived in Rickmansworth, Sandra and I used to know a couple named Tony and Kate. Like me back then, both were keen runners, especially Kate. Their home was in a built-up area several miles closer to London, and one day Kate asked if I would take her on one of my rural routes near Ricky. I had a lovely six-mile circuit based on the River Chess valley near Sarratt. It was entirely off-road, taking in the best of the local countryside - the riverside meadows, woods and hills. Getting back to our cars, Kate said, 'What a gorgeous route! But what a shame I can't just come out here and run it on my own...'

I was well aware of the lewd comments and abuse Kate occasionally got from men in passing cars when out running, but had never twigged that she might actually feel in danger. She explained that, lovely though my route was, it was simply too isolated and scary for her to contemplate running alone. The penny dropped. As a man I felt no such fear, not in the slightest, but simply being a woman turned a quiet beauty spot into a place of threat. I have never forgotten that conversation, and Lucy's article brought it all back. Some of her own and other female birders' personal experiences are described, and the resulting effects, and they are thought-provoking to say the least. Lucy's piece is entitled 'Call it Out', and on that note here is a related story...

Some years prior to my run with Kate, her future husband Tony witnessed a bunch of men hassling a young woman on a London Underground train. The details are a bit blurry to me now, but I recall that they were young office types, suited and booted. Tony sat watching, gradually becoming more and more incensed. Plucking up courage, he walked over and intervened. In Lucy's words, he called it out. Telling him to mind his own business, the ringleader turned and took a swing at Tony, punching him on the nose and putting him on the deck. The young woman immediately stood up, and in a quavering voice informed the bloke he was under arrest. She was an off-duty policewoman. I remember Tony recounting how she held out her warrant card with a trembling hand. And sure enough, the man was duly taken into custody by the Transport Police.

At the time I wondered whether I would have had the guts to do what Tony did. Thankfully, Lucy's article makes clear that nothing quite so dramatic is required. Her closing words:

We need men to stand with us and show the best side of our vibrant, warm and welcoming wildlife community, a community I love and one that I hope more women can be part of.

Yep, can do that. Happily.


  1. Gav, I understand that Kate joined the Police at some point.

    Women being hassled while outdoors by men?
    Not that I've seen it myself, but then again, once I'd been recruited as a running minder for a teenage Andrea Whitcombe on account of such treatment, it was unlikely to occur. Put it this way, I took the responsibilities of my role more than seriously. Even now, thirty years later, if Andrea is visiting the area, I get the call to arms.

    With the perpetrators of the abuse of women and kids. I'm pretty damned unreasonable.

    1. Yes Ric, I can imagine, a good choice of minder! Mind you, I remember watching Andrea blitz the field when the Women's English CC Championships were held in the Ricky Masonic School grounds one year, so I'm sure it wasn't a cushy number! 😄

    2. Well the first run wasn't Gav. I attempted to run at her pace and in less than a mile I had to stop. Totally wiped out. Almost on my knees.

      We laugh about it even today the fact that over my almost shattered remains, she asked with genuine concern if I was alright? She I noticed, was hardly breathing.

      I mean I wasn't that slow a runner. I could beat the hour for ten miles at the time! But she was operating on another level.

      Needless to say, we slowed things down a lot after that.

  2. It is hard not be fully in agreement with everything in that article. The biggest single barrier to calling it out remains, ironically enough, the fear of violence - as Tony found out to his cost. It is the same reason that racism on the tube or on a bus goes unchallenged and people just stare at their feet. The kind of man who thinks it is OK to be overtly and vocally racist, or sexist, or in any other way -ist is also likely to to have few qualms about proving his manhood by beating you up, or worse. Most people are part of the silent (and thus complicit) majority not because they want to be but because they are scared. And I think it is legitimate to be scared, these days perceived minor indiscretions can become very nasty as people are so so intolerant.

    1. Oops, pressed the button too soon - the link is to a TED talk about peer calling out of poor behaviour, that this is a male problem, and requires male leadership.

    2. Thanks for the link Jono. A superb talk. Literally 1 in 6 gave it a 👎 though. Scale of the problem is huge.