When we fist moved to Norfolk, open spaces were pretty terrifying. I hadn't seen more greenery than Greenwich Park, and our new house sat in the middle of a field without a streetlight in sight. I went wandering one weekend soon after we arrived, thinking merrily about bunny rabbits and the fallow deer which graze in our garden sometimes, and stumbled off the footpath and into what I assume now was the local farmer's woodland.
Now, despite living in The Big City I hadn't seen or heard a real gun in my life. In fact, even when the first few shots echoed around the trees I didn't twig immediately. I don't remember a lot of it, I think I was too frightened, but I do remember that my instint was to crouch and freeze, and the taste of iron in my mouth. I didn't think to call out or scream. Instead, I bolted. And in the circumstances, it was the worst thing I could do.
I think they mistook me for a deer. In any case, the shooting started up again - whether as close as I remember it or not, I don't know. I got out into open field, and didn't stop running.
I was shooting my Week Fourteen in the same woodland this afternoon. Nowadays I'm far more wary of where I can and can't wander, but I often use that patch for my photographs and I know it's not often patrolled. There's shooting too, sometimes, but it's always further away, in a different copse. They were there today, but I kept a cautious ear open and didn't pay them too much mind.
It wasn't until I had wandered away from my set-up, intent on finding a spot for a concept shot I've been planning, that I realised how close they had come. Three shots echoed in quick succession and most definately in my neck of the woods. I yelled out a hello, but the only answer that came back was another burst of rifle power. Resisting my rabbit-like instinct to run, I moved back towards the clearing where my make-shift studio was situated and hoped they would go away. The gunshots only succeeded in getting louder and more frequent. So, as I started pulling down paper and slashing string free of the trees, I did the only thing I could think of: and started singing.
God knows what they must have thought if they heard me. The first things that came into my head were some old folk songs Gareth and I have been using as technical practice, and I was belting out The Ash Grove as hard as my lungs would let me. My hands were shaking so badly I could hardly get the pegs down. Eventually, as I snapped my tripod up, the shots subsided. I still couldn't work out where they had come from because of the echoes, but I jumped the ditch and didn't stop singing all the way home.