As much as I love my long walks with Ollie, they do have their drawbacks. I have written much about the rain and mud, and how I longed for a change in the weather. Once that happened, I had to prepare for the familiar hazards associated with walking in the summertime.
The first post I ever published on this blog, in 2012, was about being bitten by flying insects. Since then, little has changed. As soon as May arrives, so do the insects. After the first flush of harmless but irritating May bugs, the midges and mosquitoes begin to appear. Under the trees, in the shady areas, and close to the riverbank, swarms of these things congregate. As I dislike wearing a hat, my sparsely-populated head is a prime target. Other succulent areas seem to found on my legs, as soon as I begin to wear shorts. After a few miserable episodes of returning home covered in itchy bites, I soon realised that all exposed areas just had to have a good application of repellent spray, or I would face the consequences.
Some things cannot be countered with this precaution though. Horse-flies ignore any creams or sprays, and dive into the attack. Nettles, prickly-leaved plants, and brambles with razor-sharp thorns are all waiting to get me too, it would seem. One day recently, I returned home with one leg covered in blood. I had hardly noticed the thorn that had neatly sliced through part of my calf with the precision of a surgeon. Nettle stings can be eased with the fast application of a Dock leaf. But there are lots of leaves out there, and unless you are completely sure that the chosen foliage is of the Dock variety, you run the risk of more stings or barbs, as you pluck it to use.
When you spend as much time outside as I do, it becomes apparent that nature has many ways to defend itself, and to attack too. Some leaves and stems contain tiny white hairs. Touch these at your peril, as they will hurt a lot, and carry on hurting for some time after. Trip over into some Gorse, and the sharp spines will pierce your skin as smoothly as a hypodermic needle. Unless I can recognise something as harmless, I have come to assume that it will do me harm, in one way or another. I walk carefully, always trying to look ahead, to watch out for potential stingers, trip hazards, or clumps of spiny thorns.
Walking about is a serious business, not to be taken lightly.
Three days ago, I stupidly forgot to apply the mosquito repellent before a three hour walk. The local biters must have received the news by some form of insect telegraph, as they were all waiting. By the time I returned home, now conscious of my folly, I had seven bites on my head, two on my neck, and a particularly large one on my left knee. That’ll teach me.