We risked a dog walk in the woods this afternoon, even though it looked like the rain might return at any second. It was four o clock and already gloomy and we were quickly disoriented on this familiar route, because the leaves had fallen and the paths were covered.
It’s a bit of a spooky wood at the best of times. Some weirdoes have decided to fashion fallen branches into little lean-to dwellings, dotted around the trees. I mean who’d ruin a good countryside walk gathering up stuff to build such structures? They will only last decades at best.
But we pressed on, trying to work our way towards the top of the hill where there’s usually some good mud and puddles for Phoebe to jump around in. But had we gone the right way?
Phoebe asked if she could hold my hand. Such gestures of affection are still fairly rare and I was pleased to comply. There’s not much better in life than walking hand in hand with your daughter.
Wolfie was off the lead because she’s pretty good with new dogs now, generally just wanting to run around with them and she always stays close. But just as I was thinking we should turn back to try to avoid the rain and the increasing gloom, the dog scampered off into the trees and would not be called back. And it quickly became clear what had attracted her attention: a huge herd of deer was running though the wood. They might have been running because of Wolife to be fair. But there were dozens of them, careering along. It was a bit magical and a bit terrifying. Might we be caught up in a stampede caused by our dog? And would our dog ever come back, or spend the rest of the weekend trying to play with the deer? Might she be hurt by these noble ungulates?
No amount of calling for her was going to do any good, so I went into the trees after her. I thought I could see her running back and forth with the liquid stream of deer, but my view was obstructed and the deer were a similar colour to her.
I’d left my family alone in the wood where weird people make structures in the tree and thought there was a good chance I would have to stay here for hours tracking down the stupid dog.
After about ten minutes I heard a shout from my wife. I assumed she and the kids had been abducted by the tree people and that I was going to have to get a new family now. But it turned out the Wolfie had returned of her own volition. Whatever I had been looking at wasn’t her.
I trudged back and the rain had started falling. Some other people had come by and Phoebe had told them that Santa Claus reindeer were in the woods. “It’s a shame all that noise will have scared them away,” they had replied, somewhat ungraciously. I suppose it could have been slightly less gracious if they’d told her that those were just deer and Father Christmas didn’t exist (he does by the way).
We let Phoebe jump in the mud and then turned back. But I couldn’t work out which was the right way down and came across a new part of the forest, where one of the wooden structures had the metal skeleton of a tent outside it. The tent and maybe whoever was in it, had been ripped away and only the bones (of the tent) remained.
We couldn’t go too far wrong, but I had somewhat lost my bearings and was feeling a bit concerned that we might be going on a traditional Herring disaster ramble, like the one I went on with my parents up the Mendips when there was 5 foot snow drifts, where we’d got lost and I got frozen to my core.
Luckily these days we have iPhones so I was able to roughly access where we were and what direction the car was in. Finally we were on a familiar path and I could see the car. “It’s OK,” I shouted back to my wet and miserable family, “We’re found the way out! We’re safe!”
At that point one of the Morlock tree people who live in the woods ran out and grabbed me and spirited me away to his lair where he and his tribe feasted on my flesh and turned my head into a hat.
Never shout “We’re safe” before you’re actually safe.
But the tree people cloned me from my corpse and sent the new me to live with my family, who wouldn’t know what a monster they had in their midst, until it was too late.
I was looking forward to a night in front of the fire, drinking wine with my wife, but she reminded me that I was gigging in Milton Keynes.
It was only my second gig since the early part of June and I wasn’t really too sure what routines I had in the brain bank.
But it went OK. Not better than that. I’d rather have stayed in front of the fire, all being equal. But I’d rather not have been murdered by tree Morlocks. You can’t always get what you want.