This may or may not surprise you. But despite my air of cool and calm sophistication I am a bit of a nerd at times. Particularly, when it comes to things about local history and especially old train tracks. I don’t know why but I love looking for old train tracks and finding things out about local train lines. Perhaps in a previous incarnation I was, y’know, a steam train.
I don’t know about the old engines or anything like that, I just like knowing where the tracks and stations were and I let my imagination send me back in time to a bygone era. There is an old line not far from where we live now. The line was known as the Harborne Express but it eventually got closed down because it was just too slow. Oh, the irony!
The track has been converted into a pleasant walk through an area called Chad Valley and so I ventured to find this walk and partake in the splendour of a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll.
The weather was a real mixture and therefore I opted to take the standard bald man item of protection. No, not a Taser, the baseball cap to shield my sensitive naked scalp from the harmful rays of the sun. Because it was also a bit breezy at times, I took a hoodie. Yes, if there’s one lesson I can impart on you, dear reader, it is to always be ready for the elements.
I found the pathway that followed the single train track from a hundred years ago. The banks either side rose high with fauna and trees causing a natural haphazard shelter from the elements.
As I started strolling along, I did wonder whether there was any risk of being mugged because I won’t lie to you, I was heading towards an area that wasn’t exactly Kensington and having grown up where I did, it is natural to always consider whether there is a risk of being mugged, beaten up or both. Some call it being streetwise, I call it avoiding getting beaten up.
As I passed through a tunnel under a main road, I kept my wits about me and although I had my earphones in, I was listening to some stand up comedy on Radio 4, so I would still be able to hear anyone shouting, “Give us ya money bitch,” which I believe is the standard call of the would be assailant.
I passed a junkie on the way and she looked at me rather suspiciously. I thought that was ironic as I was a bald man in his mid thirties who was listening to radio 4. But as I continued to stroll along, I started to see more people enjoying the route. An elderly woman jogging, then an elderly man jogging, then a couple cycling and this started to assure me of my relative safety on this route. Because, let’s face it, the old people are easier targets than I am, right?
But I started to notice that I was in fact getting looks along the route and I wondered if it was because of my glasses and cap combination, which look like a standard spy disguise. But then it dawned on me; the reason for the funny looks. There I was, a man walking alone, along a pathway, which could be a bit dicey should any unsavoury characters frequent it and I was wearing trainers, jeans, a hoodie and a cap. Forgetting the glasses and classic spy disguise for one minute, I realised in that moment that I was in fact dressed like a classic bad guy in a Crimewatch reconstruction.
I was not the enemy here and at first I thought that it is better to be considered a threat than a victim like jogging Doris from earlier. But of course that depends on your point of perspective because what if something criminally untoward should happen along that stretch of pathway? Then I’m straight in the frame for it aren’t I?
So for much of the pavement I felt like I was being judged by every lone female who passed me, every elderly person who jogged past and I’m sure even a couple of dogs and a squirrel gave me dirty looks.
I needed to appear less criminal, so I removed my hat and revealed my smooth, freshly shaved dome. Now I resembled someone who had alopecia or who was on their way back from chemo. I felt chuffed that now I wasn’t getting any dodgy looks because to the outside observer, I was quite simply, a bald man enjoying a leisurely stroll and yes, probably listening to radio 4.
Of course, my relief was short lived because what if someone in a hoodie and baseball cap did commit a crime along this walk at some point. Fingers will still be pointing in my direction. But at least for some of this walk I was an assumed innocent bald man.
But then, a moment of terror. As I strolled under another main road, through a small tunnel, suddenly from nowhere, there was shouting from immediately behind me. This made me jump out of my skin to the point where I actually fell off the pavement. The pavement was raised by about an inch but I still somehow fell off it, going over on my ankle and into the wall of the tunnel. Yes, it was pathetic.
As I turned to see the source of this terror, I discovered two, elderly, foreign gentlemen, jogging slowly in bad lycra and wearing headphones. One of which, clearly didn’t realise how loud he had decided to talk to his friend and so suddenly bellowed something as they entered the tunnel, unaware that at the other end, thanks to his lack of volume control, the acoustics, the darkness and the concentration on radio 4, there was an entirely innocent looking and slightly ill looking bald man about to be startled to the point where he almost emptied his full bladder.
Of course, I saw the funny side of this incident. They were totally oblivious to it though. So for a couple of minutes, to the outside observer, I was a bald crazy person laughing to themselves on a dicey pavement near a tunnel.
Later, as I came towards the end of my 4.5-mile walk I saw another bald man coming the other way. We gave each other the knowing look as bald men do. We both know the struggle damn it! But then I hoped that it was a friendly “Hello baldy” type of thing and not a “I’m cruising, do you fancy finding a bush?” kind of thing.
After convincing myself that it was indeed a “Hello baldy” type thing, it then dawned on me that if he had committed a crime whilst on this walk, his discernible feature was his acute baldness. Shit! Now I could be potentially framed for two criminals; the baseball cap and hoodie wearing assailant and baldy bad man.
For the final stretch of the walk I opted for a baseball cap worn backwards because it is highly unlikely that a crime would be committed by an eighties throw-back.
I still got looks from various walkers. Not because of looking like a criminal. Probably because I looked like a dick.
Maybe next time, I should dress in bad lycra and start screaming as I enter tunnels?