Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Took the once in a blue moon opportunity of going sledging this morning. Actually that's not correct, as a blue moon occurs every 2.72 years and we haven't had snow like this in the west country for about 14 years. So long ago in fact, that the sledge which I bought for my daughter seven years ago, hadn't been used.

Started off with a couple of runs on the deserted Netham recreation ground, on the bank leading down to the Feeder, then walked up the towpath of the River Avon towards Troopers' Hill. Found a good run starting from the base of the chimney, descending steeply in a channel, crossing over a path before ending up in a bramble bush. Half way down, there was a small ridge, enabling a nanosecond of flight if you got your speed up.

After a while I was joined by a few others, who noticed that I seemed to have found the best run, although their own slippy devices were no match for my purpose built technology from the plastic crap shop. They apologised for cramping my style and asked if my back was OK. I told them that it hadn't been to start with, but the sledging into bramble bush therapy was working a treat.

At one point, I upset a small dog, though not its red coated owner, who uttered words of encouragement as I careered across the other path en route to the prickly buffers. It's great how a bit of frozen precipitation can make people sociable. Later on, as I headed home, I passed the red coated woman on a narrow woodland path. Normally, I would have felt aware of being perceived as a potential threat. You know what it's like when you find yourself walking behind a woman late at night or in a secluded place. You try so hard to act normal and unthreatening that you actually make yourself appear more like a stalker. In this instance, the woman said hello and we exchanged a few words as I passed.

A bit further on, there was a white transit van blocking the pathway and I muttered a sarcastic, 'Oh, nice one !' as I approached. I don't know if he heard me, but out of nowhere, a young builder appeared and seeing me with a sledge he piped up, 'Someone's got the right ideal'. His cheery Bristolian disarmed me from my petty irritation at the parking violation.

Since starting to photographically document evidence of parking violations, blocked cycleways, etc. a while ago, I've noticed others in the city doing it, but rather than feeling solidarity, they've brought home to me how futile opposition is, given the apathy of the council and police towards enforcing the law. Pissing into the wind has its drawbacks. It's also reminded me of the potential for nasty confrontations, such as the time I got followed home by a maniac who heard me cursing him for parking on the pavement and forcing me out into the road with a pushchair.

Checked out St George's park on the way home, but the snow was already melting fast and I was more concerned by the sight of the demolished and fenced off play area, undergoing complete redevelopment. It only seems like yesterday since the last time it was renewed, but it appears that the council feel the need to close and redevelop quite a few play areas in parks around the city, possibly in response to even tighter health & safety regulations.

Back home by midday after a five mile round trip, chuckling as I read blogs by Londoners complaining of having to walk a couple of miles in the crippled capital. By the evening however, I was getting a bit tired of the BBC, who devoted 13 minutes of the 10 o'clock news in an overreaction to an entirely predictable weather occurrence - though it was awful to learn of the tragic death of a 16 year old in a sledging accident.