Country Life: If you get down in the woods

Share
Related Topics

An item in the
Hereford Times caught my eye last week.

An item in the Hereford Times caught my eye last week. It was headlined "If you go down to the woods, you're sure of a surprise", which rather suggested that the story was a frivolous one. But the opening paragraph read: "A Herefordshire mountain biker was left shocked and disgusted when he saw two pensioners in a compromising position in Haugh Wood."

Is that an amusing story, worthy of a chirpy headline, or not? I'm not entirely sure, and nor, I suspect, was the Hereford Times. To encounter a couple energetically love-making when you are out on a bike-ride can, I am sure, be distressing. And disregard for propriety in a public space is shameful, whether the miscreants are Romeo and Juliet or Darby and Joan. On the other hand, the fact that the "shocked and disgusted" witness was 25, and the libidinous pair "about 65 or maybe even older", has to be worth a titter, if not a round of applause. After all, the boot is often enough on the other foot. So in that respect it's a rather uplifting tale.

It is also, for several reasons, a faintly worrying tale. For one thing, it is laced with the ageist assumption that older people publicly having sex is somehow less acceptable than younger people doing it. That certainly appeared to be the reaction of the shocked mountain-biker, James Taylor, who for all I know may be having post-traumatic stress counselling to deal with an unprecedentedly appalling spectacle. "I have mountain biked in Brazil, Laos and Cambodia," he said, "but I have never seen anything like this". Can the Hereford Times, too, be accused of ageism? It's fair to conclude that it would not have given the same prominence to the story had it been a couple of pensioners horrified to stumble across two thrashing 25-year-olds. But every journalist is trained to know that a predictable tale turned on its head has news value; that "dog bites man" is not a story, while "man bites dog" is.

Speaking of dogs, the Hereford Times reported a few months ago that Haugh Wood featured on a website recommending places to watch other people having sex - the practice known, I'm told, as "dogging".

Quite why anyone should wish to go dogging I have no idea, although I am reminded of my friend Johnny, who years ago told me that from his kitchen window in south London, a couple in a neighbouring flat could frequently be seen having sex, indeed seemed to invite the voyeurism, keeping the lights on and the curtains open. Once, when my girlfriend and I were round at Johnny's for dinner, he called from the kitchen to tell us that the couple were, at that very moment, at it. To our great discredit we made our way to the kitchen with what can only be described as haste, and looked out of the window. "I can't see anything," I said. "No," said Johnny, "you need to stand on the draining-board, hold on to the extractor fan, and lean out as far as you can, then twist your head round to the right." How he first happened on the spectacle, I never really found out.

Name games

Let me turn to a much more wholesome practice, that of storing apples through the winter. My birthday present from Jane was a handsome beech apple-rack, which she ordered from a mail-order company, knowing that I have entered a time of life when scarcely any present is likely to give me more pleasure than a beech apple-rack.

The procurement of it, however, was troublesome. By the day before my birthday it still had not arrived, even though it had been ordered a fortnight earlier.

So Jane phoned the company and explained the situation to the woman at the other end. "It's Mrs Beech Apple-Rack," she heard the woman tell a colleague. "She says it still hasn't arrived." This tickled Jane, not least because we do the same with our holiday cottage guests, giving them the name of whatever cottage they are staying in. "Mrs Woodlands wants to borrow an Ordnance Survey map," Jane might tell me. Or "Mr Yew Tree would like to know whether there's racing at Ludlow this week."

It's the best way of identifying them, we have found, although we try not to let them overhear. Sometimes, though, such things can happen by accident, which again takes me back to our former life in London.

About five years ago we had a new kitchen fitted in our house in Crouch End, and Jane wanted a matt finish on the cupboards. But those delivered were gloss. She duly expressed her dissatisfaction to the fitter, Trevor, who promptly phoned head office and in his agitation got her name slightly wrong. "Mrs Veneer's doing her nut about the finish on these cupboards," he said.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'