If I were to tweet about my day, it would go something like: ‘sat on my arse eating scones and reading The Last Dragonslayer cover to cover #myperfectsunday #bliss’.  Obviously I would be using these hashtags for comic effect, because I’m cool and ironic and whatnot.

My day was nice, but dominated by the kind of inaction that creates quite a lot of pain in the lower back. By evening I found myself formulating a plan to pop a couple of ibuprofen and go for a walk. It was that or lie on bare floorboards weeping dramatically, and nobody needs to hear that.

plopAnyhoo, this being October in Scotland, by 7.15pm (roughly the time my back pain action plan made itself known) it was basically pitch black outside in the park by my house. I quite like the dark thanks to a childhood of indoctrination by the owl who was afraid of it, so off I went, head filled with a sound wall of stellastarr* and my own thoughts. It was nice, and as I walked I found myself thinking about a story that came into my head a week or two back (likely to become my NaNoWriMo project this year), and generally feeling at ease with the world.

Then, as if on some kind of cue for the narrative of the universe, a face loomed out of the darkness gesturing wildly and evidently speaking to me. I am a well-bred sort of person so the headphones came out and I allowed myself to be engaged in conversation, albeit a reluctant one. It went like this:

Him: You got the time please?
Me: Hang on a sec [fumbling for phone] it’s 7.30.
Him: OK. It’s awfy dark eh, I can’t even see your face.
Me: Yep, it is dark.
Him: It’s creepy, I thought I was being followed for a while there! I was afraid I might get attacked!
Me: [looking in the direction he’s come from – there is nobody around] …um… it is a bit spooky I guess.
Him: [with a massive grin] that’s how I’m not wearing my watch, in case I get attacked!
Me: Er… I’m sure you’ll be fine.
Him: Hope so. Bye!

I’ll be honest, this exchange didn’t leave me feeling totally at ease. A few thoughts chased through my head. Was he winding me up? Was that a veiled threat? Was he – and based on the way he spoke I think this is the most likely – being totally genuine, but equally lacking in the social awareness that says it’s not really cool to stop a woman (or anyone, for that matter) walking alone, point out they are in an environment ripe with potential for attack, and then cheerily vanish into the night?

Whatever his motivation, the results were:

  • I didn’t put my headphones back in straight away, and when I did I only used one earbud for at least a mile. To be honest I think that heightened the sound of rustling undergrowth, joggers about to overtake and the quiet of the area – adding to my unease rather than diminishing it.
  • I found myself stopping to text my other half information about my planned route in the event he got back to the flat later to discover me absent, probably murdered.
  • For a while I seriously considered turning round and going home, in spite of the fact I’ve walked and jogged the same route at that time of night loads of times.

IMG_0807Obviously I got home un-attacked (presumably because I don’t wear a watch, so why would anyone go to the trouble) and proceeded to channel the feelings generated by that walk into my art. By which I mean notes for the aforementioned story, which is my second crack at a YA speculative dystopia. Those of you with long memories may remember that I started writing such a thing for the original 12 Books in 12 Months project, only to discover my idea had already been done by an American writer called Scott Westerfeld.

I am excited about this project to the point where I quite want to start writing it RIGHT NOW, but I’m trying not to as I still have a few changes to make on the most recent incarnation of my silly book for 8 year olds which I’m considering entering for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. With any luck it will win, and in a couple of years someone else can spend their afternoon reading it from cover to cover before going out for a walk in the park and failing to get murdered for their watch – thus the circle will be complete.

Did you fail to get murdered on your Sunday evening walk? Or are you finding it hard to finish your current project because you’re overexcited about the next one? Leave me a comment; you don’t have to go through this alone.

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