At around 4am on Saturday morning, a very dark, overcast, and rather drizzly night, I was approximately here (link to Bing Maps); somewhere near the "X" formed where the zig-zaggy footpaths cross that descend the steep valley side. I was somewhat wobbly from several bottles of my favourite ales. I don't always walk home this way from my regular Friday night trip to hang out with my little crew of friends at one of their houses, but the time, location, and inebriation are pretty representative of what I would consider a perfectly normal 3-4 mile walk home. The other walking options are similarly cross-country, or involve long stretches of road with no pedestrian footpath. Very heavy rain or snow might make me think twice, but don't normally put me off. On particularly beautiful nights, I have even had an unplanned snooze after sitting down to admire the stars or the dawn-chorus.
My usual trip to the supermarket is somewhat shorter, but similar; there are stretches of road with no pedestrian pavement, and they involve crossing countryside on muddy, unpaved public footpaths, carrying as many supplied as I can on my back.
The commute to my last place of work took in a two and half mile walk along an old railway line (you can see this on the linked map if you switch to Ordinance Survey view), and a 400ft climb to the top of a very exposed hill (over 1000 ft at the summit). That was just to get the bus to Halifax, after which I walked another mile or so to the office. I did this in both directions every work day, in the dark in winter, and in all weathers. I even astonished the boss when I turned up having battled through waist deep snowdrifts; of course, most of my colleagues who lived in Halifax itself had phoned in to say they couldn't make it!
So what's my point? That I'm super-fit and smug that I'm so much hardier than everyone else? Hmm, I'm certainly not all that fit, just very stubborn. There is a certain pride I take in it, but I recognise it as being a rather perverse and masochistic kind of pride. So here are my main reasons why I do this (some might say post-hoc rationalisations, and I would not disagree.)
Reactions to this "lifestyle choice" from friends are very varied. The friends that I visit at our Friday night gatherings don't bat an eyelid, and some of them have quite similar habits (at least a couple of them are almost certainly also autistic; the others don't lead particularly "conventional" lifestyles, either). Other friends react with complete horror, and implore me not to take the risks which they perceive I'm taking. I have only realised very recently that my reaction to their concerns probably seems flippant and ungrateful; but I know what the risks are (years of hiking, caving, etc.), and I accept them as a reasonable compromise so that I can work, shop, and socialise. In the decades that I've lived this way, I have never come to serious physical harm, have never been in trouble with law enforcement (I stick to footpaths and never trespass), and the only time I've been mugged or attacked was in broad daylight in a city-centre park. The fact that I will almost certainly not be able to continue like this as I get older frightens the hell out of me, quite frankly.
So I thought I would throw this open to comments from people here. There are no right answers, and I'm not looking for pity. I've just realised how little I question it and how much I've underestimated how bizarre it can seem to other people. What does anyone think? Am I completely crazy to do this? Are my justifications just perverse rationalisations? Do you do these things too?
This is a fascinating thread. I'm just wondering if any of you have read Steve Silberman's Neurotribes. Silberman was, of course, the journalist whose research led to the findings about Hans Asperger's controversial past.
Aside from that, though, the first chapter of the book - The Wizard of Clapham Common - is about the 18th century scientist Henry Cavendish (or 'natural philosopher' as he would have been known at the time, when investigations into the workings of 'God's Creation' would have been regarded as more of an enlightened hobby). As Silberman says, Cavendish 'defined the scope, conduct and ambition of the scientific method for centuries to come.'
He would also, at the time, have been regarded as deeply eccentric. He had secret stairways and passages installed in his mansion so that he didn't have to meet with his servants in his perambulations around the house. Rather than speak to his servants, he communicated with them via notes left on the hall table. It was noted that he refused to look at anyone with whom he was conversing, and he was much more of a listener and observer than an active conversationalist. Sounds familiar to me!
Here, though, is the first paragraph from the chapter - and a good introduction to our Henry...
Every evening in the last years of the eighteenth century, at precisely the same hour, a solitary figure stepped forth from the most unusual house on Clapham Common to take his nightly constitutional. To avoid the prying eyes of his neighbours, he stuck to the middle of the road, never hailing those who recognised him or touching his hat to acknowledge passersby. Dressed in fussy clothes that had last been in fashion decades earlier, he walked with a distinctive slouching gait, his left hand behind his back. His route, like his departure time, never varied. He would proceed down Dragmire Lane to Nightingale Lane and walk for another mile, past quiet town houses and rows of oak and hawthorn trees, until he arrived at Wandsworth Common. Then he would walk back the way he came. He had made only one revision to his itinerary in a quarter of a century, after attracting the attention of two women who planted themselves at a corner where they were likely to catch sight of him. Spotting them from some distance away, he abruptly launched himself in the perpendicular direction, making an undignified but effective escape through the muck of a freshly-ploughed field. After that, he scheduled his walks after dusk, when he was least likely to be seen.
A fascinating character, and one I immediately warmed to when I read this. I usually go out for my walks during the daytime (and I always take the same routes through quieter streets), but I much prefer to do so at night. It's just that, around here, the night streets aren't always so safe.
Martian Tom said:He had secret stairways and passages installed in his mansion so that he didn't have to meet with his servants in his perambulations around the house.
Oh yes, I can understand that one. If I'm feeling a bit burned out, I can end up not seeing my landlady for weeks at a time - she lives in the room below me, and we share a kitchen!
Back when I was a student, sharing rented houses, I'd always have something in my room to use as an emergency bed-pan. I sometimes just couldn't handle even just a brief accidental meeting on the stairs on the way for a pee, especially if I knew that any of my house-mates had guests in the house. None of these are people that I disliked, or found any harder to get on with than anyone else; but when I'm not feeling communicative, I just can't stand any interaction at all.
Robert123 said:She has gone for a nightwalk in her bare feet and now they were cut with bruises and blood.
I have done similar once or twice, though not really by choice. When I have a melt-down, I will usually try to flee if I can, and can get several miles before coming to my senses, usually with no idea where I am or how I got there. My legs just keep going until my instincts find what they want, which is usually a quiet green space of some kind. I've had this happen a couple of times when I've had no shoes on when I've melted down. I've never seriously injured myself or got into trouble during a melt-down flight, which rather amazes me, and thankfully, it's not happened for a very long time. I manage my sensitivities better to avoid overloading than I used to, and I more often shut-down rather than melt-down if pushed too far; to a certain extent, if I feel a shut-down is imminent, I can force it to be a shut-down instead if I can sit or lie down and concentrate really hard.