Alex James: My irrational fear of the woods at night

Share
Related Topics

I inadvertently discovered a new adrenaline sport a couple of weeks back: probably the oldest one of all – running through the woods at night. I've been basking in the long evenings, especially enjoying the calm of twilight but I mistimed it, set out on my rounds too late and got completely caught out, plunging headlong into darkness with, it has to be said, a certain amount of glee. I knew it was going to be a close-run thing when I set out so I had a head torch on but it was nothing at all like I expected.

The darkness came suddenly. It was still dusky on top of the hill but as black as black by the time I was in amongst the trees at the bottom of the valley just a couple of minutes later. My ears were sharpened. There were new noises: caterwauling and cooing, hooting and barking.

A neighbour had said to me just a couple of days before that he found those woods creepy. "What!" I said. "The woods? Creepy?? Pschaw." I do know the woods really well and feel at home there but they are another world at night.

His words echoed and rang between my ears as I fled full tilt down what I hoped were the right tracks. It was as scary as anything I can ever recall from flying in a helicopter gunship in a war zone to being caught out in bad weather at sea. The fear was all completely irrational. Those woods are no more dangerous at night than in the daytime and I'd been there just the day before picnicking among the bluebells but that didn't matter.

Irrational fears are the scariest ones of all. I was hanging on to that thought when a startled pheasant clucking and flapping in a panic stopped my heart.

By the time I was out of the woods the moon was rising huge and orange. The fields were benign and peaceful. I could see the glow of light of the farmhouse on the prow of the hill and it looked so warm and cosy and I was safe and I couldn't wait to do it all again.



How to scare a field of castrated bulls



Of course running round the woods at night is merely a variation on a walk in the park theme but it's sure as hell tough out there in the real jungle, the jungle of the market place. I have been following the Apple workers' human rights stories with interest. In one sense, it's an amazing business model. I'm pretty sure I would struggle to make you a cheese for what it costs to manufacture an iPhone.

Nobody wants to pay more than they have to. Margins on global food commodities are even tighter than on gadgets, so competitive that those at the bottom of the food chain are bound to end up flogged to bits. Often this means animals. We are happy to support fair trade with farmers in developing economies but we don't exactly cherish and love our own farmers and livestock.

I went to breakfast at Sainsbury's HQ in Holborn last week along with journalists from my new favourite magazine The Grocer, The Farmers Guardian and Farmers Weekly. Sainsbury's announced that they plan to invest a lot of cash into their dairy farmers over the next few years. A brave step in the right direction. Someone had to be first.

We have steers here at the moment, castrated bulls. They are the first thing I see when I look out of the window in the morning. They are inquisitive creatures. It's funny how I used to be scared of them. It can be quite alarming when they chase you. If that ever happens, run at them shouting. It really works.



A 2,000-year-old treasure from the deep



Spent the weekend in Bournemouth or 'at' Bournemouth as they used to say. I grew up there and I'm always drawn back. We were staying with my parents and poking around in the garden in a quiet moment I found a large urn. An amphora. It was as tall as me. Inexplicable.

I hadn't seen it, or actually anything like it before, except in the British Museum. I had to ask what it was doing there. My father told me quite a long story about how he had been diving in the Mediterranean 50 years ago and found the neck on the last day of his holiday. He left the piece with his friend who spent the next two weeks poking around looking for the rest of it. He found it all too and stuck it all back together. This friend had died recently and left my dad this wonderful thing that they'd pulled out of the sea between them.

It's reckoned to be 2,000 years old at least, but the language of the thing shouts loud and clear across the millennia. It is so stylish it looks contemporary. Beautifully made, a Nebuchadnezzar of a thing, an icon not just of beauty, but of plenty.

I'm looking at it now and smiling. The vessels were used for storing wine. I can tell you for certain they must have had pretty good parties 2,000 years ago.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there