Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Out and about...


The sarcastic response to 'International Women's Day" on the 8th March; might be :
"Really a whole day; just for us?
 Well thank you; if you're sure you can spare it"

But I know that's not how it's meant; it's supposed to highlight the issues particularly affecting women and girls around the globe.. And really; looking about the world it's hard not to wonder if we haven't slipped back a Century or two.

There are so many things still not right; or even getting worse that it's hard to know where to start...
So I might stick to the subject that perhaps I can claim to have some expertise in...How it feels to be a woman right now, right here, particularly in respect of excursing by oneself...

I have cycled, walked, camped and generally traveled about solo, by bus, train and hitching too, enough, to see that as a gender we are very under represented..."Out there"

Clifton, Bristol, dusk...

Why is this?

Quite recently whilst on a short 3 day cycle tour of Exmoor and it's environs I fell into conversation with a couple of scout masters (yes I know ;) at a hostel to which I had retreated in the face of inclement camping weather.

They reported having seen far more solo female cycle tourists on the continent; than ever they had espied here...

I am often the subject of friendly curiosity in this regard; I don't mind, a bicycle seems to be a good 'ice breaker' and the resulting conversation is rarely dull.


It's just that a woman out by herself; is still seen as unusual enough to be remarked upon.

Perhaps it's a case of people thinking of what they usually see around them as 'normal'. Anything else; is somehow questionable.

And judging by the often envious remarks I get from other females, whilst I'm going about the place; I don't think it's a case of women not wanting to go out by themselves.
 It is perhaps more to do with giving themselves permission; or learning a few skills to make it a possibilty; or perhaps just seeing other women do it so they know it's no big deal...

It really isn't so hard to learn to navigate... And getting lost; if that should occur; can be fun and lead to fresh discoveries... One talent that women do seem to have less trouble exercising is 'asking for directions when lost'.
You never know what extra, handy nugget of, local advice you may garner in addition to directions......

I did genuinely get a "I wouldn't start from here" from an Irish builder chap, when enquiring 'pon the quickest route to a destination.....Larks aplenty!

And a succint life story; and 'state of the upland sheep industry update' from a Dales shepherd when establishing which of the two possible routes would be a less hilly conclusion to a long day in the saddle..

Most camping kit can be found in lightweight form; if you don't happen to have  the 'agricultural heft' built up through thirty years of farm work...Like some of us do.

And putting up a tent isn't nearly so complicated as some folk would have you believe....

The science of shelter erection: 'Tautology' is a gender free, sexless, undertaking...





 Maybe on account of having spent most of my career, in what is traditionally seen as a male job; I'm less susceptible to pressure to behave in what might be considered a 'lady like' fashion....Ha!

And that is perhaps another issue.

Expectations, and the concious, or unconcious, use of unhelpful language, and how confidence sapping it might be to those unsure of themselves.

 "It's just words; get over it." Some will say; funnily enough that is rarely opined by those for whom those perjorative words may have some sting...

There is a plentiful supply of ready to use negative terms out there; for females getting ideas 'above their station.'

But even with ostensibly, well meant advice... Implications can be made.

There was an article I read recently about 'Getting more women out into the wilds'

Or something along those lines..

 They were encouraging first steps...

And on the face of it advice such as..

Be sensible about your use of social media....i.e. Don't give away where you are...
Seems perfectly reasonable, until you analyse it...

Because girls; if you do give away your location; and 'something happens'

That is; for instance if a completely out of order person finds you; and molests you in some way; well you didn't take sensible precautions.... Silly girl.

It may seem like a trivial distinction to some; but the implication underlying is that 'You were asking for it....'

How often do we still hear this; in all sorts of situations?

 To be honest; I personally have an almost awestruck admiration for the women who can survive a night out in a camisole top, very short skirt, and little else....What I want to know is how they don't die of exposure in those temperatures; without even a cardi??

 Impressively tough I'd call it...Manufacturers of insulated jackets are not going to be funding research into this 'extreme temperature resistance' phenomena any time soon..


Here 'The bright lights of Whitby' after a full day of cycling in the soft welcoming rains of Yorkshire; last October.
 Despite being a daughter of that fine county; I've gone a bit 'Southern Softie' since and definitely had my warmest clothes on here...

Candlelit dinner for one... A nightlight can be very cheering, and doesn't add significantly to the luggage.... I'll nip off, and weigh it later...

Earlier in the same trip I'd had an enquiry from a chap who asked:

"Aren't you scared out there; all by yourself ; on your own in a tent?"

"Scared of what? exactly..."

There was a short pause...Then

"Oh ; I don't know...The Boogie Man?"

Which of course made me fall about laughing...

Well yes; I can see there could be a bit of a problem if some bloke turns up wanting a disco in this tent; there really isn't the room.....

And it would play havoc with the seams....

 Shudders....


I guess what he meant was that scarey; vast dark primeval unknown; just outside the tent flap.....

Where anyone; or anything; but most likely; in this country at least; sheep; could be lurking...

But really I'm pretty sure that at 'Axe Murders School' first principles would be "Go where the people are"...

Don't hang about; in a random; out of the way spot; in the hope that a hapless lady cyclist should happen by and bung her tent up; just as the sun goes down.....


Tea light carried front left pannier; I believe.....The ancient; now in need of repair; forward luggage; appropriately branded 'Freedom'   That company sadly now defunct...


Next week I'm going to a women's night at a localish cycling shop. the same shop from which I purchased my steed some years back.

I'm not usually a big fan of single sex events, but it will be interesting to see what goes on. And I hope to find out what might be done to encourage more women to get out and about doing their own thang, following their own noses, under their own steam, and mixing their own metaphors to their hearts content...

For me I s'pose it started as a girl; wandering unimpeded; even about the edgelands of Bristol.

Then luckiest of lucky; having access to a hoss when a bit older; to go charging about on; dissappearing off who knows where?

In the days before mobile phones. Getting a bit lost on occasion; then finding oneself again.
A few minor tumbles but no permanent damage..

And of course the equine is still; the mode of getting out and about; most favoured by the female youth in the countryside, but access to such privilege, is by its nature very limited.....And the proliferation of such beasts; in some areas could even be said to be leading to the 'ossification' of the countryside.

It should be a normal unremarkable thing for girls and women to go it alone by whatever means of transport, but sadly, still now, in the early 21st Century we are often seen as objects of curiosity... Tis a shame; cos there's lots out there...

And ones own company; when not engaging with the natives; can be most congenial...


http://www.bikesheduk.com/exeter-womens-night

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