Starting the year outdoors
People usually like to get off to a good start. A New Year has the prospect of a good time to make a new start - hence all the resolutions and revolutions. I don't bother with resolutions, and I am extremely unrevolutionary. I expect that in reality most resolutions will be broken probably at the latest eleven months before another resolution opportunity comes along. Bit like most exercise regimes, perhaps? Real life will intervene.
But getting off to a good start - that's a slightly different matter.
And so it was I resolved - no, I decided - that (at least if the weather proved fair) I should - no, would - attempt to be at the top - more or less - of Pole Hill as 2015 turned into 2016. Pam had suggested the idea, and she had also suggested that she would be there if fair-weather allowed. I collected Marian from Wanstead as I drove to Chingford, because Marian sounded enthusiastic about the idea and wanted a lift. There were a few spots of rain, but hardly enough to warrant a windscreen-wipe. There were numbers of people walking determinedly through South Woodford, some even walking unsteadily and determinedly in clumpy-looking block-soled shoes. Their legs looked funny-shaped as I got the opportunity to have a look whilst stopped at traffic lights. Most of these people - maybe all of these people - did not look as if they intended to go to Pole Hill.
Graham was parked at the end of the last good road in Chingford before Forest View, which is not a good road and is by the golf-course. He said he'd been there for ages and wondered if anybody else would come. Lynne appeared out of the lightness (Marian, Graham and I being stood in the darkness), and then Pam, her son Jody and his friend Magdalena, and Fozi arrived. We switched on head-torches and ascended the heights, amongst trees and mud. Behind us was an orangey, not-quite-full Moon, and above it hung Jupiter. It was a lovely sight, and the stars looked good, too.
With relative ease we found the pole, and the trig-point, and there were a vague number of people already up there, looking across the Walthamstow reservoirs, between Stoke Newington and Hackney, past Shoreditch to the City and beyond to Westminster. On the extreme left the Shard was visible, and to the right the B.T. Tower. Above was a wobbly laser light from Greenwich, and above and behind was Polaris, The Plough and Cassiopeia. Other stars, constellations and the odd galaxy were also visible.
There was no real community event up there, just groups of people some of whom - usefully - did a count-down to midnight. The London Eye was definitely the main attraction in the distance, with distinct palls of smoke deriving therefrom. Jody spotted a UFO which we advised was actually a frightened bird, and after the 10 minutes-plus of fireworks from the Eye (and elsewhere) people began to disappear into the darkness (or "drift away"). Of course, being outdoor people we stopped to have a tea-break which confusingly consisted of mulled wine and wine-wine, plus Christmas cake. A decision was made that we should leave and shortly afterwards we got disorientated on the way down (was it the wine?) and ended up at the end of a road which was not the one we'd set out from. As even those who lived in Chingford didn't know quite where we were, I of course took control (having not drunk very much alcohol) and suggested left was the way we should turn, slip-slod the leading way behind some houses, guessed at a right turn, and hit a road that at first looked right, but then began to give me doubts. But everything is different at night, and especially at 1am night, and I was right after all.
Getting out of my car just before 2am, a Robin was bursting with enthusiasm, and - amazingly - whistling "Auld Lang Syne". Well, no, of course it wasn't; it was more likely enthusiastically complaining about all the bangs. Now that is a good start to a new year.
And so the New Year continues...
I didn't sleep well. I didn't have to bother getting up on January 1st as I didn't have to go to work. I never have to go to work. That was in years past. I decided I wouldn't bother getting up as all the day offered was an EFOG walk, which they do every year, so I could do it next year. And then my clock clicked (it doesn't really click - it's a digital one. I live in a digital world in 2016) over to 9am (it actually reads "09.00", but without those little marks either side). I happened to open an eye about then, so I saw it and my brain said something like "This is your Conscience speaking. If you don't go out today it will not bode well for the rest of your life". My unconscious tried to reply "I don't care", but I realised I did, and if I did not hurry I would either have no breakfast or would miss the train. I hurried, had breakfast and didn't miss the train.
The meeting-place for the New Year Day walk was Loughton Station, and Christine joined me on the train at Snaresbrook. I think it was Snaresbrook, but it doesn't really matter. She joined me on the train and it is always nice to see a friendly face. In fact I had already seen two friendly faces, but as most readers of this twaddle won't know them and might know Christine, we'll stick with that. As we got off the train at Loughton, Amina got out of an adjacent carriage and Fritz and his friend out of another. More friendly faces! The year was starting well!
There were lots of "Happy New Year"s and handshakes and hugs handed out as EFOG members and friends assembled and I believe 23 of us followed or walked ahead of Parviz through part of Loughton and into the mud. Into Epping Forest. We slopped as far as Connaught Waters, and around Connaught Waters, and back to Loughton Station, There, some people left to - maybe go home? Others went to Parviz and Frances home nearby, where we took off surprisingly muddy footwear and took up two rooms to partake in a lovely selection of eatables and drinkables provided by Frances. Thank you very much, Frances - lovely.
Then, gradually, we went home or elsewhere. I chose home, where shortly after arriving I fell asleep.
Paul Ferris, 3rd January 2016