Note the words “short” and “stroll” in that sentence. When Terry suggested it, I assumed he was talking about the kind of walks we usually take. Those walks are reasonably short, and normally involve footpaths, or fairly well-trodden ground, at least, so I didn’t see any reason to change my outfit, which was a knee-length skirt and white t-shirt. Honestly, I know a lot of people think any activity that involves walking requires a super-special outfit, probably involving hiking boots or something, but as long as the ground’s dry, the weather’s nice, and I’m not planning to venture off the beaten path, I’ll normally just wear whatever I happen to have on at the time, with the addition of one of my “practical” pairs of flats: in this case, my latest pair of Melissa jelly shoes, which are waterproof (not that they needed to be in this case), comfortable, and pretty much indestructible. Oh, and which also happen to have a couple of red hearts on the toes. I mean, there IS that, but the hearts don’t make them any LESS comfortable, or waterproof, or indestructible, so… I’m over-explaining this, aren’t I? Anyway!
So, I changed my shoes, and was busy applying some sunscreen, when Terry told me he’d been having a look on Google Earth, and had found out there was a ruined castle and old, abandoned house right next to a walking route we like. Would I like to go and see them, he asked? Well, WOULD I EVER. My love of old and abandoned places has been well documented over the years, so I finished applying my sunscreen, and we jumped in the car and headed off.
It all started off fine. Well, I mean, it all started off with me discovering the battery in the camera was dead, but I still had my trusty iPhone, so OK, no biggie. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was happily walking along, thinking how nice it would be if the weather stayed like this all summer, when Terry abruptly veered off the path we were on, and plunged into the forest. I followed, and before long we found ourselves at a low stone wall, overlooking a valley:
“See that lake over there?” Terry said, pointing to the sliver of water I could see in the distance. “That’s where the ruined house is!”
“Er, OK,” I said. “That looks a bit further than I’d imagined. And isn’t that a farmer’s field we’ll have to cross to get to it?”
It was. And, as if to prove it, there was the farmer, trundling into view on a quad bike and looking at us with what I assumed (I mean, I was too far away to actually SEE, but I could IMAGINE…) was a “Gerrorfa my land!” look in his eye.
“It’ll be fine!” said Terry, climbing over the wall, and waiting for me to follow. “The map showed this as the path. And it’s Scotland – we have the right to roam! We’ll just stop and ask the farmer if it’s OK!”
“And then he’ll shoot us,” I replied, climbing over the wall to join him.
“It’s Scotland,” said Terry again. “People don’t shoot each other!”
“They do if they’re mad,” I pointed out, but Terry was insistent. The farmer would not shoot us: in fact, he wouldn’t even HAVE a gun!
So, we walked over the field to where the farmer was sitting waiting for us on his quad bike, and yeah, he totally had a gun. Luckily, however, he was, indeed, perfectly friendly, and when we told him where we were going, he told us how to get there, including which fields had “beasts” in them (By “beasts” he meant “cows”, but it’ll make this post more interesting if you just assume the beasts in question to be the mythical sort. Like dragons or something.), and which did not.
As I say, he was perfectly friendly, but the whole time Terry was talking, I could see the farmer looking me up and down, and I knew – I just KNEW – that he was going to make some kind of comment about my shoes. Because people ALWAYS make some kind of comment about my shoes. Even if I’ve just walked miles in said shoes, and am showing no signs of being remotely troubled by them, someone will always want to tell me how terribly impractical/uncomfortable they are, which is kind of annoying, because, well, they’re MY shoes: shouldn’t I be the one to judge how comfortable I am? Apparently I’m not to be trusted with this simple task, though, and, sure enough, as soon as Terry stopped talking for long enough for the farmer to get a word in (Terry is an extrovert: he would’ve talked to The Beasts if he’d had the chance…), the farmer rolled his eyes in my direction and said, “Interesting choice of footwear you have there,” except he said it in the kind of tone which made it clear that what he REALLY meant was, “What an absolute idiot you are!”
Terry, however, isn’t great at picking up on tone, so, thinking the farmer was ACTUALLY interested in my shoes (Whereas I knew the farmer just wanted me to know he thought I was stupid…), he replied enthusiastically, “They are, aren’t they! They’re actually waterproof, too!”
“Aye, right!” said the farmer, in a tone that not even Terry could mistake as being derisory. Then he turned his back and drove away, leaving us to continue across his field, me now wondering aloud what kind of shoes I SHOULD have been wearing to walk across short grass, on ground which was bone dry, thanks to the nice weather we’d been having.
“But they ARE waterproof!” I protested. “And they’re really comfortable! And these are the shoes I don’t care about damaging – not that I’m going to damage them, because it’s JUST GRASS, OMG! Why do people always freak out at the thought of someone setting foot on grass while wearing anything other than hiking boots? Would they wear hiking boots to walk across their own lawn? How is this different?”
Terry completely ignored me, and soon we arrived at the gate, through which the farmer had indicated we should pass, in order to continue our walk. There was one problem, though: the gate had a chain wrapped around it (Not locked, just kind of tied loosely around it), and, rather than unwrap it, Terry suggested we could just climb over the fence next to it, instead.
“Fine,” I said. “You go first.”
So Terry placed his hand on the wooden stump of the gate, then climbed up over the wire fence next to it, and waited for me to follow. I handed him my phone, then placed both hands on top of the fence… and jerked backwards in shock. Literally, I mean. Because, yes, THAT WAS AN ELECTRIC FENCE, PEOPLE. I’m assuming the only reason Terry got across it safely was because he’d held onto the wooden post next to it, so only his shoes had been in contact with the electric part. I’d touched it with both hands, which is why I suddenly found myself standing there in shock, with my heart pounding and the palms of both hands stinging in pain.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever touched an electric fence. (My advice: DON’T.) I hadn’t, and it was a pretty weird experience. I didn’t actually feel any pain while it was happening, but it was all totally surreal. As I recall, there was a loud noise (there wasn’t), a flash of light (nope), and time slowed down (er, no), giving me plenty of time to stare at Terry, and wonder what the hell was going on. In my confused state, I somehow thought Terry had done something that had stopped me climbing the fence, and it took me a good few seconds to work out what had actually happened, by which point I had screamed REALLY loud (I have absolutely no recollection of doing this, although I DO remember hearing it…), and all of the “beasts” in the neighbouring field had turned to watch me with interest.
Unfortunately, the beasts weren’t the only ones who’d heard my cries of distress, though. No sooner had Terry opened up the gate (Because THAT’S when he decided it was worth opening the gate: thanks, Terry!), there came the noise of a quad bike engine, and our old friend the farmer appeared over the crest of the hill, like the cavalry riding to the rescue.
“Whatever you do,” I hissed to Terry in the moments before he arrived, “DO NOT tell him I touched the electric fence. DO NOT TELL HIM. Because he’s already judged me by my clothes: let’s not allow my actions to confirm his opinion that I’m the kind of idiot who touches an electric fence, while wearing silly shoes.”
“But you DID touch an electric fence…” began Terry. I was just about to point out that HE obviously hadn’t realised it was electric either, and that it was just pure luck that he hadn’t touched it with his bare skin, when the farmer was upon us, wanting to know what happened. “Screams!” he said dramatically. “I heard screams!”
I turned to him, and tried my best to look interested, and yet mystified, in a kind of, “Goodness, I wonder what it could’ve been?” kind of way, but it was too late.
“It was my wife!” said Terry loudly. “She touched the electric fence!”
The farmer looked at me with undisguised amusement.
“She never did!” he said.
“She did!” confirmed Terry.
“She never did!” repeated the farmer.
“She did!” agreed Terry.
God knows how long they’d have continued like this, but I stopped them by confirming that yes, it was true: I was not only wearing shoes with hearts on them, I was also going around touching electric fences.
“I didn’t realise it was electric,” I said – unnecessarily, I thought, because obviously I wouldn’t have touched it if I’d known. I was just about to make my point about Terry not realising either (And he was wearing NORMAL shoes!), when the farmer abruptly lost interest in my near-death experience. “I thought one of the beasts had maybe frightened you,” he said, clearly disappointed that this was not the case.
“AS IF I’d be scared of a beast!” I said, but it was too late – he’d already turned around and ridden off. “She never did!” I’m sure I heard him say as he went.
On our own once more, Terry and I successfully navigated the gate, and continued on our way. A short time later, we arrived at the “castle”:
“THAT?” I said in disbelief. “That’s what I got electrocuted for? That’s not even a castle! We see better castles than that every day!”
But it was, indeed, all that remained of the old castle that once stood there. As I was the one with the (phone) camera on this outing, Terry decided that he would play “fashion blogger” for a change. Here is his best “fashion blogger” pose:
Not far from the remains of the castle was the abandoned house he’d told me about… and the path to it ALSO passed through someone’s land: this time, what appeared to be the private garden of a very large house.
“Well, that’s it,” I said, “We’ll have to turn back.”
But Terry had not come this far, and almost killed his wife, in order to NOT see a few crumbled stones lying on the ground, so he called out to a man we could see in the garden of the property, and asked if we could come in. The man came over, and it turned out that although it WAS technically his garden, it was also a public footpath, so we were allowed to go through it to the house, which he told us was once the gardener’s cottage and walled garden of an even older mansion house that used to stand there:
This man was really interesting: he knew loads about the history of the area, which he was more than happy to tell us, so our walk ended on a happier note than it had started on, and we made it back to the car without further incident. And that’s the story of that one time I had a shocking walk in the countryside. It’s a story that Terry has re-told quite a few times now* (I’m sure I heard him telling it to the postman yesterday, actually…), and every time I hear it, I sit there laughing good-naturedly, all, “haha, what an idiot I am, to be sure!” while a little voice in my head silently screams, “TERRY DIDN’T REALISE IT WAS AN ELECTRIC FENCE EITHER! AND THE FARMER DID HAVE A GUN! AND THEY ARE FREAKING WATERPROOF!”
Oh, and the next morning? Terry had sore feet, but mine were absolutely fine. TAKE THAT, farmer!
(*One time he let me tell the story, but I only got as far as, “And I was wearing my new Melissa flats …” before he interrupted to say, “Are you going to tell them about the bit where you touch the electric fence and start screaming?” Yup, dude stole my punchline. Again. I swear he does this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And this, my friends, is why I blog…)