How brilliant is The Outdoors?
Fucking WELL BRILLIANT.
I’m just back from a scratch of a new show that takes place outside, at dusk, in a motherfucking FOREST. But I’m not going to talk about that right now. I’m going to talk about NATURE and shit.
The countryside’s been on my mind a bit recently. I’ve been in London all summer long, holding the fort at work, trying out all the different air con settings, sweating on the tube. We have a decent patch of garden at ours, but it’s down the bottom of next door’s bit and the lawnmower cable won’t reach the house and about ten years ago some cunt planted the world’s most aggressive bamboo down there so, basically, good fucking luck even getting the gate to open now. (Rosie actually fought her way out there to film an Ice Bucket Challenge a few weeks ago. She looks like she’s doing it in the fucking Congo.)
Summer in London with (effectively) no garden. A snatched twenty minutes at lunchtime down by the river, or on Millennium Green by the Old Vic. People everywhere, phone playlists and boxes of chicken. My parents came to visit for a weekend and I wouldn’t let them go to Portobello Market because I couldn’t bear the thought of it. Instead I dragged them out to the Olympic Park in the hope that we could find a quiet spot in which to just zen the fuck out a bit. They’ve probably not stopped worrying since.
And then the referendum in Scotland. I became aware of how emotionally-driven my political opinions are, started looking back at photos of Loch Eil, Lochailort, the beaches at Arisaig. The stillness! The tranquility! The fucking great big majesty of it all! Look at it all! It’s massive! The land of my birth! Look! A stag! A seal! A golden fucking eagle! It’s no wonder I’m feeling oppressed by North London. Have you fucking SEEN where I come from?
Then tonight. “Meg, do you want to go to this R&D sharing in Epping Forest?” I found it on the map and the little patch of green looked about as big as the bamboo plantation we’ve got out the back here.
"Call that a forest mate. I grew up with GOLDEN EAGLES my friend."
I’m not going to get all reactionary, all big-R Romantic about this, but when I got to the meeting point after work, not far from Chingford Station, I was being a bit of a pillock about breathing. Y’know, all that wow fill your lungs doesn’t it just smell AMAZING bullshit that city people do as soon as they can feel a breeze. I got a bit quiet as I watched the mist gathering on top of the trees. Then got a bit excited at the thought of actually - !!!! - going into the woods after dark!!! First we walked through the clearing where (no word of a lie) a couple of teenagers were fucking CANTERING AROUND ON HORSES and laughing with ACTUAL GLEE and (get this) NOT EVEN STICKING TO THE PATHS. Just, like, racing their ponies round in circles and shouting to each other and being teenage and happy and unafraid.
And then we walked into the woods as it got dark and it was fucking nothing like Latitude or End Of The Road or any of those overcrowded fucking labour camps. It wasn’t exactly quiet (it’s under some flight path or another) but the dark was flexing and, outside our small chattering group, we were alone. We saw a frog. Like, just fucking hopping about in the grass in front of us like it didn’t give a fuck. And we watched the performance under a canopy of trees that felt like an actual secret. Nothing’s secret in London. Nowhere is fucking secret. There are websites that list the “secret” places you can visit. Time Out runs fucking features on “secret”.
Then. THEN! (And this is totally the best part.) Then: when we walked back out of the forest an hour later, that clearing - where the girls had been laughing with the horses - was like another fucking planet. Proper Star Trek shit. All the mist had settled, so thickly that our torch beams were like these huge, tangible triangular wedges in the air. The streetlights half a mile away had become this nuclear glow on the horizon, as if some lighting designer had tripped over the desk and accidentally backlit the whole fucking world. I started to do my bouncy slow-mo zero gravity walk because A) I’m fucking hilarious, and B) IT JUST FELT LIKE THE NATURAL WAY TO MOVE IN THAT ENVIRONMENT.
10 minutes walk from Chingford Station. 2 buses home to North Finchley. 66 minutes from forest to sofa.