Since going freelance a month ago I have been using the time I would have previously spent driving along a motorway to my, now ex, office to jog down to the estuary, sit and enjoy the morning light and the calls of the birds feeding on the mudflats before jogging back through a nature reserve. I’m not saying I have stuck to this routine every morning or that my jogging amounted to much but the thought of the beauty awaiting for me down at the river got me out of bed most days.
Yesterday, however, on my way there I was stopped by a women. “Was I going to the river?” she asked.
“Did I know that several women had been attacked there in the last few weeks?”
“No, I bloody well didn’t.”
This had been the background fear since I had started. I am someone who spends days on end walking in isolated parts of the countryside for my job but I knew that this was different. This was a routine, that someone could watch and wait for. This was not the back of beyond but enclosed patches of woodland at an early hour when few people were around. I refuse to be driven away from the countryside by the mere thought that something might happen but every morning I had turned off the road into the reserve with images of women who had followed similar routines and been found murdered.
I headed down to the river anyway, jogged through the woodland, sat in my familiar spot but I couldn’t enjoy it. I was jumpy. I was planning what I would do if someone leapt on me. Part of me, the slightly insane part of me, thought. ‘come and try it if you think you’re hard enough,’ and pictured scenarios where I bludgeoned my assailant into submission with my water bottle or poked him in the eye with my door key but I knew that to continue with this routine was reckless. This man had attacked women in exactly the same place and at the same time as I had been, how I had not seen him was a small miracle. I walked home, down the road, feeling like the morning sun and the birds had been stolen from me by this power crazed psycho.
But today, I thought, NO. I will not be scared away from the morning, or the country or the river by one person. I dug out my map and my bike and planned a new route, finding a beautiful cycle ride through quiet lanes down to an equally beautiful point on the river. After all, if I am to be honest, jogging was never me and I have always been more of a cyclist. I returned with rosy cheeks, at peace with the world and feeling jubilant that I had found a way to take the countryside back and not, through fear, become another victim of this man.