Here's a fairly typical London subway. It's gloomy, it's secluded and it's just that bit too quiet. Walk down here and you're on your own... or rather you hope you are. Is that something moving in the shadows up ahead, or someone? If it's a gang of local youths approaching, will they demand your wallet at knifepoint or will they just walk on by? It's easy to let your imagination run away with you in an urban hellhole like this. And yet walking through this subway didn't worry me at all. Not one negative thought flashed through my head - I just kept my eyes open and walked confidently ahead. Other people approached but I didn't quiver, not once, and nothing untoward happened. I even flashed my camera around in a 'please steal me' kind of a way, but nobody did. Maybe it's over-confidence, but I have no irrational fear of urban crime.
Here, on the other hand, is a typical Home Counties field. A swathe of rolling grassland leads down to a wooded river valley, miles away from the grime and bustle of the modern city. Gorgeous isn't it? I was there yesterday afternoon, soaking up every ounce of rural charm. Birds soared overhead, butterflies frolicked in the vegetation and the sun beat down upon my sweaty brow. What could be more peaceful? And yet, standing here taking this photograph, I was nervous as anything.
I can't walk down a country footpath without fearing what might be round the next corner. It's not so much the humans I worry about as the canine companions they might have brought with them. Yes, I know that a rural footpath is perfect for exercising frisky dogs and that they have every right to be here. And yes I know that responsible dog owners always keep their dogs under control when others pass by. But from a distance I can't differentiate an off-leash controlled dog from a manic ill-trained beast, and I have a tendency to imagine the worst. The very last thing I want to meet out here in the middle of nowhere is a bouncy over-friendly hound yapping round my ankles... or maybe even higher. I'd rather experience only the natural wildlife, thank you very much, and never have to worry about the motives of four-legged visitors.
So, against the generally accepted view of things, I feel safer in urban areas. Rural footpaths give me the willies, and I never feel at ease while I'm walking along one. I'm getting better - I managed several at the weekend - but I still tend not to go walking in the countryside as often as I might. Which is a shame. And I suppose I should count myself extremely fortunate that I've never (yet) suffered any form of violent experience on the streets of London which might deter me from venturing outdoors in the city as well. If being hounded is the worse of my fears, life can't be all bad.
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.