I just got lost on Hampstead Heath. You might think that this was a pleasant experience, strolling amiably about the trees and hills and other greenery whose name momentarily escapes me, but whose images will continue to haunt me for some time, but it wasn’t. Being lost on Hampstead Heath was one of the most unpleasant things to happen to me for a very long time. (Before my little sister jumps in, I will point out that most of my days pass very happily indeed, merrily sitting alone at my desk, safely inside, chuckling to myself at things I write and making endless trips to the kitchen for ‘sustenance’).
But yesterday morning, full of the joys of Spring (is it still Spring? Are we in Summer? My current diary is a sheet of A4 which I write things I remember to attend on, although I’m never quite sure if months have 30 or 31 days, so I’m often a day or two late), I decided to go for a run. I called my Mother before I left, because I wanted to share some good news with her, and also because I wanted to show off about how good I was being, you know, ‘going outside’, but she was on her way to the hairdressers, and far too busy to talk to me at that time. ‘I’ll call you later,’ she promised, or possibly, ‘I’ll call you never’, because she was simultaneously air-kissing her hairdresser with far greater enthusiasm than she ever greets her children.
I ran up to Hampstead Heath happily, realizing as I ran that I only had one album on my iPod: Graceland, by Paul Simon. Graceland is one of my top ten favourite albums, and Gumboots is one of my top five best songs ever. Often, when my Mother asks with increasing pointedness why I am not yet married, I sing parts of Gumboots at her: ‘You don’t feel you could love me. But I feel you could’, which I think succinctly explains my phenomenal success in the world of dating.
I entered Hampstead Heath through a little sloping path, watching carefully because I once saw some old people kissing there. I ran up my usual way, across the big lawn where show-off yoga-types do stretching exercises, and down past the tree which almost anyone can climb up to, but is far trickier to get down off. I turned left at the muddy bit, and dodged a throng of dogs on the sloping hills leading to Kenwood House.
‘Good,’ I thought, as I stopped to look out over London. ‘I’ll be getting home now.’ I turned around, and made to retrace my steps. Only I got distracted by Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes, particularly the line: ‘She makes the sign of the teaspoon/ He makes the sign of the wave’. I was thinking about this, and about the possibility of putting just a few, subtle diamonds on the soles of some of my own shoes, when I looked about me and realized that I was lost.
The trouble with being lost in a forest, as Hansel and Gretel quickly realized, is that all trees look the same.
I had run about in ever widening circles for about 10 minutes when my phone rang. ‘Oh thank goodness,’ I said. ‘I’m lost.’ ‘Oh darling,’ my Mother began. ‘I don’t really have time for another one of your little poems.’ ‘No,’ I tried to explain. ‘Physically. I’m physically lost. In the woods. I may never get out of here alive.’ ‘How unfortunate,’ my Mother said. ‘I’ll call you back.’
She didn’t. I don’t want to cry wolf, but if it hadn’t been for the fact that if you run in any one direction long enough, Hampstead Heath becomes over-priced, large family homes, I would have been lost forever. And that, my friends, is why for the rest of Summer, you will find me indoors.