‘Police Notice,’ said the police notice nailed up on a fence post at the entrance to the common land where I ride my horses.
‘It has become apparent that activities of an unacceptable nature are taking place in this area, together with offences of litter and criminal damage.’
At first I thought they were talking about Iranian New Year. Nothing wrong with Iranian New Year per se, of course, but this year they decided to hold it in Surrey and the celebrations all but brought the area to a standstill.
I had never seen so many BMW saloons doing three-point turns in one narrow country lane. The fabulously dressed and bejewelled owners kept winding the windows down and shouting at me for directions as I rode my horse: ‘Excuse me! Where is lake?’ they called, as I tried to steer my wild-eyed mare away from their meandering Beemers.
After directing about two dozen cars to the beauty spot in question, I realised that whilst doing my bit for Anglo–Arab relations, I was not necessarily doing the right thing logistically speaking.
When I got to the lake, an outdoor disco was booming, hordes of people were flocking from their cars and a desperate Surrey wildlife ranger was waving her arms at the ceaseless flow of oncoming BMWs trying to direct them away again.
By mid-afternoon hundreds of cars had come off the A3 in search of the waterside Persian New Year disco and were piled up down both sides of the country lanes, preventing any further movement of traffic.
I had no idea this was how the vernal equinox was traditionally celebrated.
I don’t want to cast a single aspersion on this noble day. All I will say by way of complaint is that I reckon I would struggle to get away with parking a couple of hundred cars on double yellow lines on z-bending country lanes if I wanted to celebrate Christian New Year by the lake. That’s it. That’s all I’m saying.
I didn’t complain at all at the time. I got right into the spirit of things and kept waving the party-goers towards the lake, where the ranger waved them back again. As a result, everyone involved had a very jolly and unusual day, even if we did create total chaos.
However, it turned out the police notice was not about Persian New Year. On further reading it appeared to be insinuating that the authorities were cross about gay cruising.
This is curious, because this particular wood has long been a haunt for gay cruising and has seen some infamous, nay ground-breaking action over the years, some of it involving celebrities and on occasion making the national news.
In fact, I would go so far as to say the gay cruisers have more of a claim on this place as part of hallowed tradition than the Iranian celebrants.
In any case, they don’t bother me, and I’m bothered by most things. I figure that the vast number of men wandering around the bushes guiltily making eye contact with other men makes for a safe horse-riding and dog-walking experience for yours truly.
To this end, I was vaguely cross about the authorities getting involved. How dare they interfere with our long-established countryside cruising, I thought.
First it’s fox-hunting, now this. Soon all our best-loved country sports will be banned and then what, hmm? The countryside will cease to exist in any meaningful way. It will just be one big theme park for multicultural New Year shindigs.
As I harrumphed my way around the common with Cydney the spaniel, I pondered this great injustice. Who had the gay cruisers ever harmed?
Like the fox-hunters, they mind their own business, get on with their favourite pursuit, and in the process keep the countryside well managed for the rest of us.
The hunts mend fences and keep vermin at bay, the gay cruisers keep the woods clear of sex pests.
I mean, what self-respecting attacker would wander the woods when they are full of shifty-looking men who’ve pulled over for a quick one on the way home from the office?
I was thinking these high-minded thoughts when I followed the spaniel into some particularly deep cover she was scouring for squirrels and surprised three men in the throes of an acrobatic encounter the like of which I have never heard tell, and which even my cynical mind was ill prepared to process and make sense of.
After which, I realised this: I’m liberal, but I’m not that liberal.
‘For goodness sake!’ I shrieked, placing a hand in front of my eyes as if blinded by the sight of them zipping up their trousers. ‘Come on, Cydney, we’re leaving.’
As I stormed off, I caught myself primly muttering, ‘Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.’