I'm presently loading up the caravan, and getting more excited by the hour about the prospect of being away.
I think this will be a slightly more energetic holiday than some previous ones - less driving around, more walking in the fresh air, wherever there's something worth seeing. That will include the views from the ridges in south-west Wiltshire, such as those in the vicinity of Ebbesbourne Wake, Alvediston and Berwick St John, or the more secretive deer-haunted folds around Tollard Royal, the little capital of Cranbourne Chase. Down in Dorset, I want to climb Pilsdon Pen and Golden Cap, and stride out atop the cliffs between Sidmouth (that's technically in Devon, of course) and West Bay. OK, these heights are not 'mountains', and I'll only get puffed, not stretched to the limits of my endurance, but I haven't yet done any of these things, despite many visits to both areas, and it's time I did!
I've got the gear. I've got the maps, and I'm good with them. And (of course) I've got my little camera. I can easily devise plans to park Fiona, take a bus to the start of a linear walk, and then spend a few hours walking back to my car. That'll earn the reward of a jolly good lunch or evening meal! It could be a lot of fun, and even in March I might pick up a light suntan. Furthermore, the exercise will help me get trim for my June or July meetup with my step-daughter, when I'll want to look good.
What I haven't got is company. That's not an issue in ordinary circumstances, because I prefer to do most things by myself. But it's not so clever when walking alone along paths that might conceal a person who intends harm where girls and women are concerned. And I count as one of them. This lurking man won't see a fabulous-looking Miss World, but let's face it, anything clearly female is going to be a target. So I'm potentially vulnerable. I've got more weight and bigger bones than most women, I won't panic, I've got a will to survive, no fear of inflicting hurt, and some knowledge of basic self-defence. But none of these things will be clear from a casual glance. They can't save me from being attacked. My height might deter an attacker, even though it's 'only' five foot eight inches: that's still on the tall side for a female person, and would make it a bit harder to jump on me and pin me down. But I've no illusions. Whether I could resist effectively or not, an attack would be a traumatic experience that would have lasting psychological effects. I'd never be the same again.
All this said, I can't live my life in fear, never going anywhere without an escort. And I don't see why I should forego the exhilaration of a superb vista, just because some weirdo may be lurking around the next bend in the path. I will be carrying a stick - that's good for whipping and poking. And I'm prepared to sacrifice anything if it can be used as a weapon. When I had my big heavy and expensive Nikon D700 camera, for instance, it struck me that it was solid enough to break someone's nose and teeth if shoved in their face. I wouldn't care about doing that, if it was a straightforward matter of self-defence.
It sounds as if I'm prepared for ruthless combat, rather than a carefree walk! But I think it's best to be aware of the dangers that go with solo expeditions, even though a spot of rational thinking must put it all into perspective: the risks are actually vanishingly low. At least for Wiltshire and Dorset. Another point: it's always nice to stop and have a chat with a passing walker, male or female. I don't want to look so fierce and discouraging that nobody will exchange a quick greeting with me, and mention, say, a deer or hawk that they've just seen. But I assure you, I shall be on my guard at all times.
I think this personal safety issue is one of the things that underpin my reluctance to try online dating. It's all blind dating, and such a risk. And having gone through so much to get where I am, I'd hate to be the casual victim of some man's Big Problem.
Hot news! Ten minutes after publishing this post, my phone rang and I got the news that my Gender Recognition Certificate has been granted. I'm elated beyond words - although I'll post something about it tomorrow, I'm sure. Michelle at the Leicester admin office actually had it before her on her desk as we spoke. I've asked her to post it to me on the day I return home, so that I get it the following morning when I know I'll be in - it has to be signed for, as it'll be Special Delivery. Wheeeeee. What a good omen. It's bound to be a great holiday now. I don't care if it rains!